Lions' Rikki Clarke celebrates Australian tour call-up
THREE weeks ago, England Lions all-rounder Rikki Clarke was relaxing back home in Birmingham watching his beloved Tottenham Hotspur play on TV.
He even had tickets to go and watch his side in Premier League action at West Bromwich Albion - that was until his got a surprise late call-up to tour Australia with the Lions.
The 31-year-old replaced his Warwickshire teammate Chris Woakes in the squad after Woakes got drafted into the main England team for the current ODI series against New Zealand.
"It was completely unexpected. One moment I was sitting down at home, the next thing I'm being told that I will be flying out with the Lions the following week," Clarke, who equalled the first-class record of seven catches for an outfielder in an innings against Lancashire in 2011, said.
"Now I'm in Australia. It's a bit of a shock but I'm delighted to be here."
The Lions, formerly known as England A, is made up of a mix of promising young players and those on the cusp of the full international team.
Missing the chance to watch Spurs will be a small sacrifice for Clarke if it means he gets the chance to add to the two Test caps and 20 ODIs he has played since making his Test debut against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2003.
He did his cause no harm by taking 4-55 as the Lions dismal tour of Australia continued as they slumped to a fifth consecutive loss following the 122-run trouncing at the hands of Australia A in the second ODI in Hobart on Monday
Clarke's victims included Joe Burns, but not before the Queenslander, the Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year, had scored 114.
"I've still got massive aspirations to play for my country again and I knew that the Lions was probably the avenue back in for me," Clarke said.
As for his love for Spurs, Clarke said he had no choice - he's even named after the man who scored the most famous goal in Tottenham's history - Ricky Villa's spectacular solo effort against Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup final replay at Wembley.
Villa went past four defenders before scoring and Rikki's father Rob, a huge Spurs fan, was there to see it.
"I was to be called Glenn (after England and Spurs star Glenn Hoddle), but one of dad's friends named his son Glenn. So I got Rikki because of that goal."