Apr 122014
 
Clarke on show at US baseball game

Kyly and Michael Clarke were thrilled with their time at Busch Stadium.

Kyly and Michael Clarke were thrilled with their time at Busch Stadium. Source: Instagram

BASEBALL’S special relationship with its cricketing cousin became even closer this week as Michael Clarke was involved in the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.

However, the honour of actually throwing the first pitch didn’t go to Australia’s captain but to his wife, Kyly.

The Clarkes were invited to take part in the ceremony at the match between St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium, and shared their glee with their hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

The biggest honour went to chief WAG Kyly, who marched to the pitching mound and hurled the ball to her husband, who took up the position of catcher at home plate.

The move comes hot on the heels of the historic opening series played at the Sydney Cricket Ground between Arizona Diamondbacks and LA Dodgers last month.

While the two Major League teams were in Australia, Clarke announced he had signed a sponsorship deal with baseball mitt manufacturer Rawlings.

That deal saw Clarke pose for a photoshoot before this week’s match in his Test uniform, with a baseball mitt on his right hand.

The 32-year-old also managed to squeeze in a spot of basketball on his trip to the US.

But perhaps the highlight for the young-at-heart Clarke was a stop at Disneyland, although it didn’t quite go according to plan.

With many historic links between baseball and cricket, perhaps Clarke is weighing up a shot at America’s great past time.

Teammate David Warner was reportedly considering trying his hand at baseball late last year, while veteran fast bowler Brett Lee opened up earlier this year about the time he was scouted by a Major League team.

Or maybe the man known as Pup is just having a bit of fun. Who knows.

Apr 072014
 
The rise and rise of Meg Lanning

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SHE’S 22, captain of Australia, quite possibly the best batter in the world — and if she plays her cards right, Meg Lanning might just earn four per cent of Michael Clarke’s salary.

Lanning confirmed her place atop the female cricketing tree with a sensational ICC World T20 tournament in which she led her country to an unprecedented third-straight title.

The trophy was sealed with victory in the final against England, with Lanning once again starring for Australia with a brutal yet effortless 44 off 30 balls.

That capped a sensational couple of weeks for the right-hander in which she was the top run-scorer in the tournament with 257 runs at a strike rate of 158.64 — easily the best strike rate for any player that scored over 60 runs.

Lanning with Lasith Malinga, captain of Sri Lanka’s victorious men’s team.

Lanning with Lasith Malinga, captain of Sri Lanka’s victorious men’s team. Source: Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, Lanning is now a clear leader in the ICC player rankings for Twenty20 cricket, moving well ahead of English veterans Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor.

She also sits fourth in the batting rankings for one-day internationals. There are no official rankings for women’s Test cricket given the dearth of games in that format — Lanning has played just two Tests, but 41 T20 internationals and 28 ODIs.

The cherry on top for Lanning was the century she hit against Ireland in Bangladesh — the first time an Australian woman reached triple figures in a T20 international. Her 126 off just 65 balls was also the highest ever score in women’s Twenty20 cricket.

Couple that with her ascension to the T20 captaincy and her Test debut last year and it’s fair to say it’s been a quite remarkable 12 months for the Victorian.

Australia coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick (L), Meg Lanning (C), ICC hall of famer Belinda Clark

Australia coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick (L), Meg Lanning (C), ICC hall of famer Belinda Clark (R). Source: Getty Images

And yet, Lanning is likely to receive a salary approximately one-twenty-fifth the size of Australia’s best batsman and the men’s Test and one-day skipper, Michael Clarke.

Clarke was believed to be top of the pile in Cricket Australia’s full contract list that was released last week, commanding a salary approaching $2 million.

Lanning was also likely to be near the top of the tree in the women’s contract list. However, that payment structure sees the top players receiving a salary of $52,000, plus a daily tour payment of $250 per day. That means players such as Lanning will earn about $75,000-$80,000 per year.

That is nothing to sniff at, and is certainly something Cricket Australia should be given credit for rather than criticised.

The new salary structure, announced a little less than a year ago, is a vast improvement on previous payment plans and compares favourably with many other female sports in the country.

Meg Lanning starred for Australia in the World T20 final against England.

Meg Lanning starred for Australia in the World T20 final against England. Source: Getty Images

But the fact remains Lanning and her youthful teammates such as Jess Cameron, Alyssa Healy and of course multi-sport star Ellyse Perry are likely to be the first generation of female cricketers to be able to play the sport they love full-time.

Given how well Lanning has done so far in a part-time capacity, other nations are likely to be quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing the Southern Stars batter without the distraction of work or study.

The player herself believes she still has plenty of improvement in her.

“There’s no doubt I still have a lot to learn, but it’s been a fantastic experience to be exposed to pressure situations and I’m really happy to come out on top.”

Meg Lanning with parents Wayne and Sue after the final in Dhaka.

Meg Lanning with parents Wayne and Sue after the final in Dhaka. Source: Getty Images

Her performance as captain at the first major tournament she’d been at the helm was mightily impressive, rotating her bowlers with creativity and showing her bold side by electing to send England in to bat in the final.

“It’s something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed,” Lanning said of the captaincy.

“I’ve had to step up pretty quickly; it happened a lot quicker than I thought.”

That’s a phrase Lanning has become accustomed to saying. After all, this is the same player that made her international debut at just 18, and now finds herself at the top of the women’s game at the tender age of 22.

That’s right, 22 — a year younger than Clarke was when he made his Test debut.

Mar 202014
 
Clarke sponsored by baseball brand

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WITH Major Baseball League about to make its debut in Australia, US sporting goods giant Rawlings have certainly picked the right time to make an impression on the Australian market.

And there’s no better headline act to associate with in the push than national cricket captain Michael Clarke.

Fresh from sealing a three-year deal with Baseball Australia, Rawlings has added to their Australia presence and impressive worldwide clientele by luring one of the most recognisable sportsmen in the country as they expand into the cricket world with a range of designer fielders’ gloves.

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Rawlings has enjoyed significant sales increases in the past three years of its gloves, the same ones used by baseball players throughout the world, in cricket-centric markets such as India and South Africa.

And the 32-year-old Clarke in thrilled to be aboard.

Clarke has a significant American connection through national fielding coach Mike Young. And it was through the behest of Young, who is also a former Australia baseball coach, back in 2002 that he began using the Rawlings glove.

“I’m honoured to be able to partner with such an iconic American brand,” Clarke said.

“I’m excited about this partnership with Rawlings, my visit to the United States next month, and developing the Michael Clarke line of Rawlings fielders’ gloves.”

Dodgers stars Kenley Jansen (L) and Adrian Gonzalez with a bat signed by Michael Clarke.

Dodgers stars Kenley Jansen (L) and Adrian Gonzalez with a bat signed by Michael Clarke. Picture: Phil Hillyard. Source: News Corp Australia

Mar 172014
 
Blues back themselves without Clarke

Michael Clarke’s presence for the Blues would have been a bonus in the Sheffield Final, b

Michael Clarke’s presence for the Blues would have been a bonus in the Sheffield Final, but state coach Trevor Bayliss is confident in the players who have already got them to the final. Picture: Getty Images Source: Morne de Klerk / Getty Images

NSW will head into the Sheffield Shield final without Michael Clarke, but coach Trevor Bayliss doesn’t see it as a major blow to his team’s chances of success.

The Australian skipper was ruled out of the game with a small fracture to his left shoulder, an injury he sustained during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.

Clarke received a barrage of bouncers from Morne Morkel and copped blows to his head and finger.

His presence for the Blues would have been a bonus, but Bayliss is confident in the players who have already got them to the final.

“We were obviously hoping that he would be right to play, someone with his experience and undoubted ability, but unfortunately that’s ruled him out,” Bayliss said.

“In the heat of the battle and with the adrenalin flowing at the time I’m sure it was sore, but you can get through a few of those things. Now he has had time to cool down.

“If he was available that’s great, but we’re quite happy that we’re able to go in with the guys that have done the job for us most of the year.”

A battered Michael Clarke following Australia’s tour of South Africa will sit out the She

A battered Michael Clarke following Australia’s tour of South Africa will sit out the Sheffield Shield final between NSW and Western Australia starting on Friday. Picture: Getty Images Source: Getty Images

The Blues have also lost the services of Doug Bollinger, who has ­replaced Mitchell Johnson in Australia’s squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh.

Bayliss confirmed that Trent Cope­land and Gurinder Sandhu are the likely candidates to come in for him, while Moises Henriques will also be back in the squad after returning from South Africa.

NSW play WA in Canberra starting on Friday in a repeat of the final round of the Shield competition.

The decider has been moved to Manuka Oval because of this weekend’s opening Major League Baseball series at the SCG.

“It’s disappointing,” Bayliss said. “We’d like to play at the SCG as much as we possibly we can.”

“We’ve only played here three times this year, and hopefully in the coming seasons we can play a lot more here.

“It doesn’t necessarily help when you play your home games away as well, having said that I think our record away from home this year has been pretty good.”

The Blues will miss the pace of Doug Bollinger, who has been called up to the Australian

The Blues will miss the pace of Doug Bollinger, who has been called up to the Australian Twenty20 World Cup squad. Picture: Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Mar 162014
 
Clarke fractured shoulder during Cape Town ton
Michael Clarke was tested by a barrage of short balls, South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day, March 1, 2014

Michael Clarke survived a sustained spell of short-pitched bowling from Morne Morkel in Cape Town © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Michael Clarke

Scans have revealed that Michael Clarke suffered a fractured shoulder during his gutsy century in the Cape Town Test, an innings that featured a sustained bouncer barrage from Morne Morkel.

Cricket Australia’s physio Alex Kountouris has said that Clarke’s injury will heal “with a period of rest”, although it was not confirmed how long that lay-off would be. Australia are fortunate that they have no Tests or one-day internationals coming up in the immediate future.

However, the injury means Clarke will be unavailable to play for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield final against Western Australia, which starts at Manuka Oval in Canberra on Friday. Clarke had returned from the South Africa tour hoping that he would be able to take the field for his state in the decider but instead he will embark upon a recovery period.

“Michael Clarke was injured as a result of being struck on the left shoulder during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town,” Kountouris said. “We have since done a series of scans that have demonstrated a fracture near his shoulder joint. We expect that this will heal with a period of rest. Michael is therefore unavailable for the Sheffield Shield final to be played later this week.”

Clarke scored an unbeaten 161 in the first innings at Newlands, which set up the victory that earned Australia a 2-1 series win. The innings was particularly notable for the way he survived a searching spell from Morkel, who came around the wicket and sent down plenty of bouncers and struck Clarke all over the body.

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