Michael Clarke's days at Sydney Thunder brought into focus

Michael Clarke's role with Big Bash League franchise Sydney Thunder will be reviewed when the lime-greeners' season ends after Saturday night's cross-city derby. The national skipper is a prized signing, but his commitments to Australia and his battle with a back problem meant he was unable to play for the team this summer.

CEO Nick Cummins said he would discuss with Clarke his role with the team that had so far accrued three victories in as many seasons. ''The issue with Michael was he hurt his back again and missed the Champions Trophy and Cricket Australia, quite rightly, took the view they needed him for the biggest occasion - and that's Test cricket.'' Clarke took a chunk of the Thunder's salary cap and Cummins said the sport's hierarchy would discuss the recruitment of CA-contracted players by BBL franchises and whether there ought to be some money set outside of the salary cap to ensure a franchise was not punished if a Clarke or Dave Warner played only a limited number of games.

Cummins said Clarke's role would be redefined. ''It has to be done collaboratively,'' he said. ''People can be quite cynical, but Michael is genuinely passionate about the Thunder and he needs to be a part of any role he has going forward. He cares about us, [his grade club] Wests and any team he is connected to. He sent me texts after we were belted by the Brisbane Heat to stick with it. He wants to catch up and talk about ways in which we can improve the team. Any decision [about his future role] will be done with him.''

Pup on the pitch

Nathan Lyon revealed Clarke, as national skipper, had occasionally called upon the spinner's knowledge as a curator-greenkeeper to help him ''read'' a pitch, but said Clarke could interpret the way a wicket would play. ''Pup's played over a hundred Tests, I think he can read a pitch, but there's been a few occasions when he's called on me.'' For the record, Lyon said his dream pitch was ''fast, bouncy, offered something for the bowlers but if you worked hard with the bat you can score some runs''. Despite cementing his place as Australia's top spin bowler, Lyon hadn't forgotten how his older brother Brendan backed him when, as a 12-year-old, he played against men in the bush. ''He's playing lower grades [at Northern Districts] and he's enjoying it. He still has ambitions and hopefully I can help him out.''

Why three won't go into Nines

The Melbourne Storm's big three will not take part in the first instalment of the NRL Auckland Nines. Under the NRL's selection rules for the tournament, each club has to play one of its top five best-paid players. But Billy SlaterCameron Smith and Cooper Cronk will not be seen in the revised format of the game - Ryan Hoffman is the man most likely to be included as the top-five player. Cronk has had shoulder surgery and is in doubt for the Storm's round-one clash against Manly at Brookvale Oval. Slater has had surgery on the knee that has caused him problems during the past two years. Ben Hampton, who will be given first crack at the No.6 jersey vacated by Gareth Widdop's defection to St George Illawarra, is expected to be one of Melbourne's best players at the Nines. While on Widdop, the Dragons recruit had his first official day at training on Thursday. Widdop tied the knot with partner Carley Lauria in the Yarra Valley in Victoria last weekend, and has started full-time training with St George Illawarra after a busy off-season on a representative level and in his private life.

Kokkinakis can't watch

Many Australians stayed up until the early hours of Friday morning watching Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open, but not his friend Thanasi Kokkinakis, who played Rafael Nadal earlier. ‘‘I agreed to do a Sunrise interview in the morning, so I had to go to bed at 1am and only got six hours sleep, which isn’t enough when you play Rafa,’’ Kokkinakis said. ‘‘I watched three sets and went to bed. I thought he was going to win.’’

NRL eyes China opener

The proposed round-eight match between Manly and Canberra in China has been put on the back-burner. The NRL is believed to want the ground-breaking fixture to open the season next year. The match, which was pencilled in to be played at Shenzhen on April 27, is expected to cost up to $1million to  play in foreign territory. The NRL and the Sea Eagles don’t have enough time to turn the opportunity into a reality and are working on a plan to use the fixture as a season-opener next year. The cost involved in moving the match from Brookvale Oval to China was the big obstacle in getting the game up and running in time. The game between the Sea Eagles and Raiders will be played as planned at Brookvale Oval on Sunday afternoon in round eight.

Hookesy’s honour

‘‘As a batsman and as a captain, I tried to be aggressive and entertaining, and succeeded occasionally. As a teammate and an opponent, I’m confident I made many more friends than enemies.’’ That was the late David Hookes’s take on his cricket career, one which even he admitted may not have quite lived up to expectations after he burst onto the scene in 1977 with five Sheffield Shield centuries from six innings and five consecutive boundaries off English skipper Tony Greig in the Centenary Test. Regardless, Hookesy was a hero to plenty of kids 30-odd years ago, including this co-columnist, who met him at the SCG in 1982. Today is sadly the 10th anniversary of Hookes’ death after his head hit the footpath during a scuffle with a bouncer (who was cleared by the courts) at a St Kilda pub. Adding to the senselessness of the tragedy, and  despite the outrage at Hookes’ loss, wanton violence is still rampant on the streets around Australia. It would be a powerful statement if, before Sunday’s Australia-England one-dayer at the SCG,  CA observed a minute’s silence for Hookes and for the 90 victims of violence.

Green gets support

Former world boxing champion Danny Green has gained some heavy artillery to KO the coward punch. Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, decorated for his valour in Afghanistan as a member of the SAS, told Green he would do what he could to end a blight on Australian society. ‘‘I have the utmost of respect for Ben, I couldn’t have asked for better support because he’s a true hero,’’ Green said. Green wants to meet NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell  and do what he can to end the alcohol-fuelled madness that has ruined too many lives in NSW.

Hayne stands out

Parramatta superstar Jarryd Hayne was man of the match after his whirlwind 41 and some devastating bowling and fielding in last Sunday’s Battle of the Smashers charity T20 cricket game at Ashfield’s Pratten Park. It meant the 2009 Dally M medallist could add yet another award to his collection – a wash, cut and blow-dry from Pino the barber at Five Dock. The day, which raised thousands for the Salvation Army’s Bushfire Appeal, had a great spirit. Alan Davidson, 84, bowled nine deliveries to former Test cricketer Gavin RobertsonDanny Green was tormented by English spinner Monty Panesar’s deadly spin bowling after the pugilist targeted him for extra attention on Twitter,  and Test pacemen Mitchell Starc and Daryl Tuffey gave the NRL stars a taste of the fast stuff. Panesar’s arrival at the crease was a Bollywood production with Swarmy Army leaderGurnam Singh acting as an escort and drumming his every step.

Sydney hoodoo

The Sydney International already struggles to attract the big-name men’s players and it will continue to do so if the Sydney curse keeps striking at Melbourne Park. None of the past seven Sydney champions have managed to progress past the third round of the Australian Open despite coming into the opening grand slam of the year in good form. World No.5 Juan Martin del Potro became the latest casualty on Thursday night when he bowed out in the second round to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets. Previous Sydney International winners who have bowed out in the same year within the first three rounds include Bernard TomicJarkko NieminenMarcos BaghdatisDavid NalbandianDmitry Tursunov and Gilles Simon. The women that have tasted success in Sydney have fared better in Melbourne. Last year’s Sydney champion Agnieszka Radwanska reached the quarter-finals at the Open, 2012 Sydney winner Victoria Azarenka was also crowned Australian Open champion the same year, while in 2011 Li Na managed to reach the final of the grand slam a few weeks after conquering Sydney.

Cooke joins ABC

It’s believed Brad Cooke could become the first indigenous commentator to call NRL matches when he starts with the ABC this season. Cooke will call Monday night games, and the ABC’s head of sport, Craig Norenbergs, said there were high hopes for him. ‘‘Brad has called rugby league tournaments and other sporting events for NITV, SBS and Fox whenever they’ve had indigenous events,’’ Norenbergs said. The ABC coverage will be headed by David Morrow and Warren Ryan along with former stars Mathew HeadMatt RodwellAndrew RyanLuke WilliamsonSteve Turner and Mario Fenech.  It’s still to be decided whether Daniel Anderson will return after taking on the coaching director’s job at the Eels.

Danny Weidler is on annual leave.

The story Michael Clarke's days at Sydney Thunder brought into focus first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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