Joe Clarke says he has reaped the benefits of developing his upper body strength and working on power hitting in becoming a NatWest T20 Blast six hitting force – after admitting he was “droppable” last summer because of his form in the short format of the game.
The Worcestershire Rapids batsman has been a constant success in County Championship cricket since breaking into the side just over two years ago.
But that prolific run-making in red ball cricket did not transfer into T20 cricket – until this summer.
Clarke will go into tomorrow evening’s (Friday’s) away clash with Durham Jets having already struck 19 sixes and with the highest strike rate of any batsman in the competition at 196.44.
He smashed a 45 ball hundred in the first meeting with the Jets two weeks ago – the joint fastest century of the season alongside Alex Hales.
It has all coincided with Clarke being given the chance by Director Of Cricket Steve Rhodes to open the innings in the T20 Blast after the departure of Tom Kohler-Cadmore to Yorkshire.
The England Lions batsman said: “Last year I struggled because I didn’t really know my game in T20 cricket.
“Last year I thought I was droppable from the T20 side because I wasn’t putting in consistent performances.
“I knew I had to do something different and go away from how I play in one-day cricket and Championship cricket and do what is needed for the team and myself as well in terms of individual success.
“I spent the winter away and I guess I’ve come back more direct really in the way I play my T20 cricket or want to play my T20 cricket.
“I’ve done hard work in the gym, worked a lot on my upper body stuff, to get myself bigger to be able to clear the ropes.
“These days it is the big lads who are the ones who are clearing the boundary. That has helped a bit. I’m just trying to get as big as I can to hit sixes because that’s what is needed in this form these days.
“I’ve done a lot of power-hitting stuff with England Lions and a guy called Julian Wood. It opened me out to thinking ‘I can actually do this’
“I’ve got a good bat as well! If I get it slightly out of the middle, then it’s been going over the boundary.”
Clarke also enjoys the challenge of going in first and has already played several destructive innings, most notably 124 off 53 balls in that first meeting with the Jets.
He said: “I’m happy to bat wherever I’m asked and opening I guess come more natural than batting lower down the order.
“Credit to Bumpy (Steve Rhodes) and Leachy (skipper Joe Leach) for deciding to go with me there. I feel as though that’s the best place for me to bat in this format and I’m loving it.”
Clarke is full of admiration for Durham veteran Paul Collingwood who also scored a century in that first meeting at New Road.
He said: “Is Collingwood an inspiration? Yes 100 per cent. For me, I’ll also be trying to play as long as I can.
“You never know what is around the corner but he is a credit to himself and the way he has kept himself in that physical condition to still be playing at 41 and to get a T20 hundred shows just why he was so successful at the top.”