• County 3 min read

    Clarke believes new look Warwickshire on cusp of something special

    Warwickshire all-rounder Rikki Clarke is looking to maintain his central role in new-look Warwickshire as he enters his 16th season in county cricket.

    Warwickshire all-rounder Rikki Clarke is looking forward to his 16th season in county cricket with enthusiasm as great as ever. Clarke has long been an integral component of the Bears team in all formats.

    During the course of a long season that means quite a workload for the former England, Surrey and Derbyshire player, especially as a seamer who bowls in all competitions. But Clarke, 35, is loving that responsibility - and intends to remain at the heart of Warwickshire's planning this year and for several seasons beyond.

    His move to Edgbaston in 2008, after a brief and unhappy spell in Derby, has turned out to be a fruitful one for both club and player. And, part of the Bears team which has won all three domestic trophies in the last five years, Clarke intends to help the side to plenty more silverware yet.

    "Warwickshire have been very good to me and I like to think I have repaid their faith and have been good to them," he said. "It really does feel like home now. It was a little bit difficult for me when I started but now I feel part of the furniture and I feel brilliant.

    "In the last two years I have only missed three games, due to personal reasons, and none through injury so that's not bad for a 35-year-old to be able to say. I think we have played 79 games in the last two years and I played 76 of them. As someone who plays in all formats and bowls in all formats that's something I am quite proud of.

    "I try to look after myself the best I can. I definitely know my body now and can manage it well. As a bowler, you bowl your overs, look after yourself and keep going and hopefully this will be another season where I can play all formats.

    "In the last few years I have been right up there in the Most Valuable Player rankings and hopefully I can win it one season. I still love playing cricket and I'd like to think I have got three or four years left in me."

    Clarke and his Warwickshire team-mates will return from their pre-season stay in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, after which they face warm-up games back in this country against Northamptonshire (two days) and Leicestershire (50 overs) at Edgbaston next week.

    A three-day friendly against Oxford MCCU at The Parks on April 2-4 will then complete their pre-season programme ahead of the Specsavers County Championship opener away to Surrey starting on April 7.

    After a winter backroom reshuffle which saw Ashley Giles return to the club as sport director and Jim Troughton appointed head coach, there is a tangible sense of excitement about the new season around Edgbaston. "With the squad we have got, we have under-achieved a little bit in the last few years," Clarke said. "But within that we have still won trophies and that says something about the quality we have here.

    "Even though we were a little bit inconsistent in the Championship last year, the stats show that we are the most consistently-performing side across the formats since 2011, in terms of winning trophies and top-four finishes.

    "I think the way we look at it is that we have that something now, as a squad, where we are on the cusp of something potentially special."

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