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Clarke frustrated at Lyon's county restrictions

Clarke frustrated at Lyon's county restrictions

Cricket

Lyon has never played more than 22 first-class matches in a calendar year in his career.

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SYDNEY (Web Desk) - Nathan Lyon's first Test captain Michael Clarke has questioned Cricket Australia's decision to cap his County Championship stint with Lancashire at just seven games saying it "doesn't make sense" if he is just going to return to home to do a pre-season given Australia do not play their next Test match until November 22.

Lyon, 36, had initially signed with Lancashire to play the entire 2024 season across all three formats before a discussion with Australia's selectors saw that stint reduced to just the first half of the season and red-ball cricket only.

Lyon, who said he was "pretty disappointed" at the restrictions, and Lancashire were left further frustrated when the first game of the season was washed out, with Lyon bowling just two overs, leaving him available for just six more of the next eight under the guidelines set out by CA although the club were hopeful that would be adjusted.

Clarke was critical of CA's decision to cap Lyon's stint in England, saying he could understand it if it were an allrounder or a fast bowler but not a spinner.

"We've seen in his career he's a much better bowler the more he bowls," Clarke said. "I'd rather see him play cricket than, what's he going to do, come home and do a pre-season? Rip a hamstring or a calf trying to do a 2km time trial? This doesn't make sense to me...what's the difference? He's playing seven games instead of nine games. I'd rather see Lyno keep playing and I'm sure he would like to keep bowling. That's what he does. It's what he does well."

Former Australia batter Callum Ferguson was equally critical of the decision.

"I really dislike this. I hate it," Ferguson said. "I'd love to see him get the opportunity to play the full season if he thinks that's the best thing for his career. Because I feel like this opportunity to get the Dukes ball in his hand for a full season, learn as much as he can about as many facilities around the country, that leaves him in better shape next time he goes over for an Ashes series and we know how dear the Ashes are to us."

Australia's chair of selectors George Bailey said last month that the decision had been made with the next summer in mind where Australia are set to play seven Tests in less than three months, including five at home against India and then two in Sri Lanka.

"It's still a really great outcome," Bailey said. "But just that conversation of actually, every now and then lifting the player's eyes and having them have a more longer-term look at what's happening and making sure that they're absolutely right to go when the Australian matches are there. But it's not something that we necessarily do [with every player]."

CA's high-performance team, led by the selectors and the Sport Science Sport Medicine [SSSM] team, carefully monitor the total number of first-class matches some of their senior players take part in to prevent injuries.

Lyon played 12 first-class matches in the summer of 2022-23, which included a tour of India where he had a heavy workload having played only two first-class games in the winter of 2022 in Sri Lanka. Between the 2023 India tour, where he finished the series bowling 65 overs in the fourth Test, he had two months off prior to the 2023 World Test Championship final and the Ashes. But after bowling 53 overs in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston and taking a match-winning eight wickets he tore his calf badly in the first innings at Lord's which changed the entire trajectory of the series.

The selectors became acutely aware of Lyon's importance to the side as they did not win another Test in the series in his absence. His desire to play until the 2027 Ashes has only amplified the selectors' desire to keep him fit and healthy.

Lyon was fit for the start of the home domestic summer last season but only played three of the six Sheffield Shield matches New South Wales had before the start of Test summer against Pakistan with Australia then playing seven Tests across a three-and-a-half month span.

There is set to be up to five Shield matches before the Border-Gavaskar trophy next summer. The selectors reasoned that if Lyon, who turns 37 in November, were to be allowed to play all 14 matches of Lancashire's Championship season, plus the first five Shield matches, he would have played 30 first-class matches in a 12-month span, including 24 in the 2024 calendar year alone, without a significant break prior to the Border-Gavaskar series starting.

Lyon has never played more than 22 first-class matches in a calendar year in his career, and only 20 or more twice. Both of those were Ashes years in 2013 and 2015 when he was aged 26 and 28 respectively.