Selectors keep faith in Michael Clarke but hand him a fitness deadline

Robert Smith
Selectors keep faith in Michael Clarke but hand him a fitness deadline

Selectors named Michael Clarke as captain of Australia’s squad for next month’s World Cup, with a fitness contingency should he not be able to play following recent hamstring surgery.

- #Quiz360: WIN a six-month Target Gym membership
- Flat pitches, dropped catches didn't help Aussies, says Steve Smith

Clarke, who missed the final three Tests against India following the surgery, has been given until February 21 to prove his fitness for the one-day tournament.

“Captain Michael Clarke will lead our World Cup campaign should he recover from his injury,” chief selector Rod Marsh said yesterday.

“He is one of the world’s best batsmen and we want to give him every chance to prove his fitness for a tournament as important as this one.

“(By February 21) we want to be completely and utterly settled. What we don’t want is talk about people’s fitness.

“We had to draw the line some­where, we just couldn’t keep it hanging on and on and on.”

A standby player for Clarke has not been named, however Marsh said that if he became unavailable, George Bailey would captain the side in his absence.

Clarke, 33, who has a history of chronic back/hamstring trouble, admitted he has a lot of work to do over the next six weeks, but was up­beat he will return as captain.

“I’m confident I’ll be fit,” Clarke said. “My focus is to get fully fit. However long that takes.

“It’s really irrelevant what I think. That’s what the selectors have gone with. That’s the system.

“I have to get fit and healthy and get myself back on the park.”

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who missed the recent Melbourne and Sydney Tests against India with hamstring trouble, was also named in a squad that contained few sur­prises.

Selectors included all-rounders Shane Watson and James Faulkner, while the versatile Glenn Maxwell gets his chance.

Xavier Doherty was picked as the sole recognised spinner, with Max­well expected to provide the side’s spin in most games.

Mitchell Johnson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood form Australia’s pace attack, while Brad Haddin will keep wickets.

Johnson, who missed the final Test in Sydney with hamstring soreness, will be rested from the early stages of this month’s tri-se­ries against India and England.

David Warner and Aaron Finch will open the batting for Australia, with batsmen Steve Smith, in the form of his life after scoring 769 runs in the four-Test series against India, and Bailey rounding out the squad.

“Mitchell (Marsh) is progressing well with his rehab and we expect him to be available at some stage during the tri-series with the aim to have him well prepared for the World Cup,” chief selector Marsh said.

“These players have really gelled over the past 18 months with their preparation geared towards giv­ing us the best chance of winning a World Cup on home soil.”

Related Links