Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has questioned Josh Hazlewood’s participation in the Indian Premier League, suggesting the stint could harm the seamer’s Ashes prospects.
Hazlewood had been out for more than three months with an Achilles problem before making his return to competitive cricket on Monday, taking two for 15 for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Lucknow Super Giants.
England fans have been crossing their fingers over the fitness of captain Ben Stokes and pace bowlers Jofra Archer and Mark Wood during the IPL, and Clarke has made it clear he shares some of the same concerns ahead of this summer’s marquee Test series.
“I don’t know why he’s over playing IPL. I don’t know why he’s not over here in Australia preparing to play Test match cricket,” Hazlewood told Fox Sports after Hazlewood’s comeback appearance.
“In the nets he’ll be bowling more than what the IPL players are bowling, in preparation for Test match cricket.
“But I just don’t know if him bowling three overs, four overs right now is his best preparation for an Ashes series after the injuries he’s had and the amount of time he’s had out of Test cricket.”
“It’s great to see him back playing, there’s no doubt about it, but for Australian Test cricket fans, you want to see him at his best for this Ashes series.”
Hazlewood landed a £758,000 deal with RCB, while key all-rounder Cameron Green scored a bumper £1.69million contract with Mumbai Indians.
Those kind of numbers provide a compelling counter-argument and Clarke accepts that Cricket Australia is in no position to compete financially.
“They can stop you going, but it’s India. Are you kidding? No-one is saying no to India,” he said.
“Is it in Cameron’s Green’s interest right now – with his body, with the Ashes series coming up, with the amount of cricket we have coming up – for him to be over there playing IPL? Or would he be better off taking four weeks’ rest, recover, rehab and start a pre-season?
“Unless Cricket Australia are going to say, ‘OK, the IPL has just offered you 3million (Australia dollars) for eight weeks… we’ll pay you that 3million, you stay home and train with us’, there’s nothing they can do.”
Hazlewood and Green are both in a 17-man squad that has been named for next month’s World Test Championship final against India and the first two Ashes Tests at Edgbaston and Lord’s.