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Michael Clarke back in business but future unclear

Michael Clarke has reignited his career by declaring he will turn out for his beloved grade club Western Suburbs, but his movements thereafter are far from set in stone as Big Bash clubs – including the Melbourne Stars – come to terms with his sudden change of heart.

And if he had his sights set on the longer forms of the game, Cricket NSW said it would welcome him, although Australian coach Darren Lehmann was more pragmatic when asked about the future of the former national captain, saying Clarke would "have to score some runs as everyone else does".

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Lehmann excited by Michael Clarke's return

Australian coach Darren Lehmann shares his excitement upon hearing that former captain Michael Clarke is coming out of retirement.

Clarke, who stood down from Test cricket after a failed Ashes campaign last year, will initially turn his attention to a two-day fixture against Randwick-Petersham at Pratten Park on February 20-21 to mark Back to Pratten Day. But his comeback will almost certainly serve as a springboard to other endeavours, particularly Twenty20 cricket.

"I still believe I have some unfinished business in the T20 department of cricket," said Clarke on Channel Nine's Wide World of Sports. "I've missed the competitive side of playing cricket. Some people play golf, some people go sailing [but] for me, cricket is in my blood."

That has rankled some at the Melbourne Stars, with whom Clarke penned a two-year BBL deal in April before informing the side just 4¼ months later that instead he would take an extended break from the game. 

Although Clarke is still contracted to the Stars, it is understood club officials are not particularly impressed with the former Australian captain's decision to opt out of BBL05, meaning the Stars may not be entirely committed to fulfilling the final year of Clarke's deal.

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Presuming he wants to play domestic T20 cricket, Clarke may want to come back to Sydney, but it may be harder than expected given the Thunder and Sixers have not even considered adding Clarke to their rosters, in part because of his contract with the Stars.

But Fairfax Media understands the Thunder have put a black mark through Clarke's name after he was unable to fulfil playing commitments in the past. 

"He hasn't even entered our thoughts or conversations," said Sydney Thunder's general manager Nick Cummins. "We're pretty happy with where our list is at the moment. [Clarke's comeback] is new for everyone."

Sixers general manager Dom Remond said his franchise was in a similar position. 

"We're looking at what fits with our current roster and what positions we need," Remond said. "So we haven't really had a good think about that at the moment." 

Clarke is being as ambiguous as possible about a return to competitive cricket, saying he won't rule anything out in the years to come. 

At 34, he has time on his side, but to speculate about a return to the international scene is premature given how close Clarke is keeping his cards to his chest. 

Clarke told Lehmann about his decision on Sunday, to which the Australian coach expressed his delight.

"He's a pretty good player," Lehmann said. "His record speaks for that, so for him again, as far as I know, and I spoke to him this morning, it's about playing that first grade game in February and seeing where it takes him from there. It's great to have one of the greats back. Really pleased for him." 

Meanwhile, NSW Blues coach Trent Johnston, who is in New Zealand preparing his side for a Sheffield Shield match against Western Australia, said he would welcome Clarke back into the state set-up, provided it "fitted in with what our plans are".  

"You wouldn't discount a guy of his quality if he was coming back and had that desire to play cricket again and was scoring runs and warranted selection," Johnston said. "He's got to be scoring big runs for NSW to get in [to the Australian Test side] which is only a good thing for us." 

At this stage, Clarke has told Wests officials he will only be available for one game but, should his love for the game – as he has spoken about since making his announcement – continue to flourish, he may be a more regular sight at suburban cricket grounds around Sydney. 

"It's an open book after that as to what he wants to do," said Wests secretary Rick Wayde. "[Clarke returning to grade cricket] is one of those things you always hope will happen." 

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