Michael Clarke offers to return as Australia captain

SYDNEY (AP) Former Australia cricket captain Michael Clarke says he’s prepared to come out of retirement to lead his embattled national team after the ball-tampering scandal that led to the suspension of current captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.

Clarke, who retired three years ago after Australia’s Ashes defeat in England, told News. Corp he had messaged Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland offering to play for free but had not had a response.

Now 37, Clarke says he feels fitter than when he retired after 115 test matches, partly due to a chronic back injury.

”I’ve never cared about age. Brad Hogg played at 45,” he said. ”I don’t think it’s about a number. I think it’s about commitment and devotion.”

Clarke later walked back suggestions in the News Corp. article that he had sought the Australian captaincy. He said he had simply approached Sutherland as a friend and offered to assist Australian cricket in any capacity.

”This article is out of control! Let me make very clear that I have not sent any formal offer to James Sutherland to come back and play cricket,” Clarke said on Twitter Sunday.

”I sent him a message as a friend offering to help Australian cricket in ANY way I could (this could mean mentoring the under 14s).

”I won’t be batting in the nets in India (during the IPL) in preparation for a comeback and as I have always said the game owes me nothing, I owe it everything.”

Clarke said he was concerned at how reports of his offer would be received.

”To be honest I’m so nervous about the headline and how it’s perceived,” he said. ”But I can’t just sit here and do nothing – I feel I owe the game too much.”