IPL 5: Michael Clarke joins Sahara Pune Warriors

Sahara Pune Warriors, who were eager to rope in a big star in place of the ailing Yuvraj Singh, have got the man they wanted.

Australia’s Test and ODI captain Michael Clarke has agreed to join them for two IPL seasons for an undisclosed sum.

Clarke, who will be 31 next week, is a refined middle-order batsman and can be a utility bowler with his slower stuff. He has never been part of IPL and retired from international T20 last year.

Clarke’s inclusion is a coup of sorts for Pune as the Aussie was not available in IPL’s auction pool.

“It’s a big thing for us,” said Abhijeet Sarkar, corporate communication head of the Sahara group, the owners of Pune franchise. “All credit to captain Sourav Ganguly and others who were involved in the negotiations. Clarke will be an integral part of Warriors’ unit. He is a player of big stature and can fill in the shoes of Yuvraj.”

Pune were given extended time to trade and finalise their squad after they boycotted the auction on February 4 and also threatened to pull out of the IPL. Having lost Aussies Tim Paine, Mitchell Marsh and James Hopes to injuries this season, they went ahead and roped in Raiphi Gomez, Steven Smith, Marlon Samuels and Luke Wright.

It has been learnt that Pune have got IPL’s clearance for a replacement for Hopes and are likely to clinch a deal with Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal.

Clarke, recovering from a hamstring injury, will not be available for at least first four matches as Australia would be playing the Test series in West Indies in April. He is expected to join the team for their big game against Mumbai Indians on May 3.

Clarke can give solidity to the Warriors middle-order as their top-order comprises of a host of hit-and-miss players like Graeme Smith, Robin Uthappa and Samuels. Clarke is the second big name acquired by Pune outside the auction process after Sourav Ganguly. The latter was available in the auction last season but no franchise bid for him. Even Brian Lara had no takers last season.

Clarke is the second marquee player bought for an undisclosed sum this season. Delhi Daredevils got Kevin Pietersen from Deccan Chargers through a transfer process.

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