His journey as a professional cricketer will be complete at the end of the season. What made Rikki Clarke into the fine all-round player that he became in the rich autumn of his career?
Richard Spiller takes a look back at some off the important people in his career.
John Cozens, his first coach at Godalming, recalls “a great throw and safe hands when catching”, traits which have been present throughout his career, playing for the colts aged seven after an exemption was made in the minimum age.
Fellow Holloway Hill member David Kingsmill remembers a precocious 11-year-old making up the numbers for a senior game and getting down on one knee to sweep his second ball for a boundary, much to the bowler’s dismay
Clarke went on to develop his game further at Guildford and in the Surrey youth network, where he benefited from the Nescafe Coaching Scheme set up by Denis Jacobs and Micky Stewart.
He worked at both Woodbridge Road and in the county set-up with Mike Powell, who continues to coach young bowlers for the Surrey Academy.
“You didn’t need to be much of a coach to see Rikki’s potential,” he reckons. “Just about any idiot could spot it because he hit the ball hard, bowled quickly, had bucket hands and a possessed a strong arm. That’s a winning combination.”
Clarke and Tim Murtagh were the first two beneficiaries of a scholarship scheme for young cricketers set up by Bernie Coleman OBE, a great servant to Surrey and English cricket. Micky Stewart, the former Surrey and England manager who has witnessed much of Clarke’s career, said: “Rikki and Tim were picked out as outstanding young players who would benefit from an apprenticeship as they learned about the game.
“After that Rikki went on to join the MCC Young Professionals for a year, which gave him further opportunities.”
Clarke was to play a part in Guildford winning the Surrey Championship in 2001, when professional commitments permitted, skipper Tim Walter recollecting: “Rikki was an exceptionally gifted young player and that came through when he came back to play for us. Some of the catches he took, especially, were out of this world although to him they never felt anything out of the ordinary.
“He would play the game at full pelt for us and enjoyed himself.”
And Walter added: “It’s a mark of Rikki that during the first lockdown we had a session on Zoom for club members chatting about the game and he was very keen to get involved.”
He moved with bewildering speed from the county youth teams to the professional game, team-mate Danny Miller reflecting: “We opened the bowling for the under-17s and then five minutes later he seemed to be playing in the Surrey first team. Given how strong the club was then, with so many internationals around, that was some achievement.”
When Clarke left Surrey at the end of the 2007 season, he spent a brief period at Derbyshire before being snapped up by Warwickshire, whose director of cricket Ashley Giles was another Woodbridge Road graduate who had reached international level.
Giles, now MD of England cricket, recalls: “It was a calculated gamble to bring Rikki to Edgbaston. He had lost his way a bit but we felt there was so much there which he could add to our team and he became a key part of our team which won the County Championship in 2012.
“Rikki and I had a few moments and maybe it needed a bit of tough love to help push him towards having a better career. Cricketers aren’t one size fits all and need different approaches.
“We knew he had that talent which could shape a game, whether it was with the bat, ball or his catching. He worked really well with Graeme Welch, our bowling coach, to understand how to develop his bowling and it’s extraordinary how he could pick things up which might take most people a long time. That’s the mark off someone with huge ability.
“Rikki’s become a more mature person and professional and it’s a huge pleasure to see how that has happened. You try, as a manager and coach, to help a player go from A to B but it’s down to him in the end and he deserves enormous credit for the way it’s turned out for him.”