Joe Clarke keen to keep in permanent role at Melbourne Stars

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He has kept just five times in T20s but is set to take the gloves for the Stars all season and open the batting alongside Marcus Stoinis

English import Joe Clarke is preparing himself for an unfamiliar role in the upcoming BBL as he is set to be Melbourne Stars’ wicketkeeper for most of the tournament.
Stars’ local wicketkeeper Seb Gotch is battling a career-threatening finger injury and is likely to be unavailable for the entire tournament.

They had searched far and wide for a wicketkeeping option including big-name overseas players. West Indies wicketkeeper-batter Nicholas Pooran did a short stint with Stars last season but was unable to return. The job is set to fall to Clarke who has kept just 11 times in his six-year professional career, and only five times in T20 cricket, all of which were in this year’s PSL for Karachi Kings.

He kept in one County Championship fixture for Nottinghamshire this year and is predominantly a part-timer behind first-choice Tom Moores but Clarke said he is looking forward to the challenge.

“Obviously my keeping was something that has sort of been on the on the backburner last couple of years,” Clarke said. “I went to Pakistan to play in the Pakistan Super League and was keeping for that. It’s something that I’m looking forward to doing as well over here.”

Clarke will have his hands full keeping to legspinning duo Adam Zampa and Qais Ahmad, but he completed a sharp stumping during one of two practice matches he played in on Tuesday.

Coach David Hussey was concerned about the lack of keeping knowledge on his coaching staff and has signed former Australia Test wicketkeeper Peter Nevill as a back-up playing wicketkeeper. Nevill will also be leaned on in a coaching capacity and will assist with Clarke’s preparation. But Clarke was comfortable he would be able to get the preparation work that he needs with Hussey and assistant coach Ben Rohrer.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with them so far,” Clarke said. “Although obviously [they] didn’t do too much with keeping in their day, [they] just facilitate with me and do the drills that I do back home and stuff like that and just make me feel as best prepared as I can be.”

Hussey has no concerns about Clarke’s batting ability and is keen for him to form a formidable opening partnership with Marcus Stoinis.

“Joe Clarke’s been outstanding for Notts for many a year opening the batting,” Hussey told ESPNcricinfo. “So hopefully they gel very, very quickly and they can open the batting and set a nice foundation for our middle order players.”

The pair gelled nicely in the afternoon practice game on Tuesday at the Junction Oval against Renegades sharing a 95-run opening stand off 11.4 overs. Clarke made 64 off 40 balls as he rounded off his preparation ahead of his second stint in the BBL.

He played three games for Perth Scorchers last summer as an early-season replacement player prior to Jason Roy’s arrival. His 34 off 16 balls against Stars undoubtedly played a part in his recruitment.

“I loved it,” Clarke said. “Obviously I would have loved to have played some more games. But just get a taster for the Big Bash and how the competition goes was actually good fun.”

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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