Melbourne, Jan 31: Six months after he called it quits, former Australian captain Michael Clarke is eyeing a return to first-class cricket and the lucrative IPL but has ruled out any immediate plan for an international comeback.
There was speculation that the 34-year-old, who retired following Australia's Ashes defeat last August, could be aiming for an international comeback after saying that "I'll never say never to anything" in an interview.
But clarified in a later interaction that his immediate focus was on T20 tournaments like the Big Bash and the IPL. Clarke will play for grade team Western Suburbs against Randwick-Petersham in a Sydney club match on February 20-21.
"I'll start with playing this grade game for Western Suburbs and see if I miss it as much as I feel like I'm going to. If I do, the option is there to train the entire winter and then we'll see what happens," local media reported Clarke as having told 'News Corp'.
"There's BBL next summer, I'd love to be a part of that, IPL, county cricket. There's possibly even Sheffield Shield cricket for NSW," he said.
He added: "All I know is, I'll never say never to anything." Talking to Channel Nine's 'Today', Clarke later made it clear that his ambition was to pursue his T20 options as he said there was some "unfinished business" with the shortest format of the game.
"I'm not really making a cricket comeback, because I (only) retired from international cricket, but now I'm playing for my grade club Western Suburbs. I got an invitation a couple of weeks ago to come back and play a game for Wests, and I said yes, and I really can't wait - I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"Obviously I've seen the papers, and it says I'm coming back to play cricket for Australia and all sorts of things, but my focus right now - I haven't picked up a bat for five months since I retired from international cricket - but Wests asked me to play, and I can't wait, so that is my focus right now."
Clarke, who scored 8643 runs from 115 Tests and 7981 runs from 245 ODIs, hung up his boots after a tumultuous final 18 months as Test captain, during which he struggled for form and fitness, fell out with Australian selectors and mourned the death of his close friend Phillip Hughes who died in a freak accident in November 2014.
However, he said the recent break from cricket has rekindled his love for the game and helped his troublesome back recover. "I've still been training all the time. Training has always been such a big part of my life and I enjoy it, so my body is feeling amazing and my back feels outstanding."
"My focus is playing for Western Suburbs right now. If I miss it and love it like I'm hoping I do, then I'll be really focusing on the shorter form of the game. I still believe I have some unfinished business in T20 department of cricket, and you've got BBL, you've got IPL - you've got a number of tournaments around the world that allow you the opportunity to go and play that."
Should his comeback to grade cricket be a success, Clarke could join the likes of England's Kevin Pietersen and South Africa's Jacques Kallis on the international Twenty20 circuit.
Clarke played six matches for Pune Warriors in the 2012 IPL and has never played Big Bash cricket despite signing with both Sydney Thunder and Melbourne Stars, prioritising his international commitments as Australia captain.
The 115-Test veteran had been signed on to play for the Stars in BBL 5 but pulled out of the deal shortly after announcing his international retirement, citing the need to spend some time away from the game. He also played 34 T20 internationals, scoring one fifty.