Former Australia captain Michael Clarke on Friday said his body felt 15 years younger after a spell away from cricket as he prepared for a comeback at the Hong Kong T20 Blitz.
Injury-plagued Clarke said nine months without cricket and its rigorous travel, as well as a revamped diet and training regime, had given him a new lease of life as he contemplates joining the lucrative Twenty20 bandwagon.
The 35-year-old batsman played his last Twenty20 international in 2010 but he will test the waters for a stint in Australia’s Big Bash League at the four-team Hong Kong event this weekend.
Clarke, troubled by chronic back problems, retired after last year’s Ashes series but less than a year later, he will make an experimental hit-out for Kowloon Cantons.
“I’m going to play these couple of games and see how I go, see if I enjoy it and then assess after that,” he told AFP in Hong Kong.
“Right now it’s about coming here and having some fun. If I enjoy it, I’ll assess when I get home what my exact plan will be.”
He added: “My body’s going really well. My body hasn’t felt this good in 15 years. Let’s hope I’m saying that on Sunday night after four games of cricket!”
Clarke has been in discussions about playing for the Sydney Sixers in the increasingly popular Big Bash, and a steady stream of his countrymen have padded their bank accounts and fanbases in India’s money-spinning IPL.
Apart from a “rusty” 48 in a Sydney club game in February, Clarke said he had hardly played or even watched any cricket this year.
“I don’t think it’s new,” he said, when asked about the trend of players turning to T20 after international cricket.
“I think of Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin — all these guys have been doing it for years.
“It just seems to be a little bit bigger because I’m involved.”
Clarke, who became a father in November and runs a cricket academy in Sydney, said he was busier than ever since retiring.
After years of pain, he said he had changed his physical regime to improve his general wellbeing, rather than his cricket, but he hoped his fitness wouldn’t be a factor this weekend.
“I haven’t done it for cricket, I’ve done it for my day-to-day life. It’s a nice feeling to be able to put your shoes and socks on in the morning with no pain,” he said.
“I haven’t looked at it in a cricket sense, to be honest. It’s more about bending down to pick up my daughter with no pain, carry my daughter around for an hour if we go for a walk with no pain.”
He added: “I’m excited, I feel fit and healthy so it (Hong Kong) won’t be about my fitness. It will be more about the enjoyment factor and if I like being out there and playing in that competitive spirit.”