Michael Clarke will be fit to captain Australia at the World Cup, according to coach Darren Lehmann.
Clarke, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, was due to play for a Cricket Australia XI against Bangladesh in Brisbane today and Lehmann sought to draw a line under suggestions of a lack of leadership in his squad by saying Clarke would be “fresh and ready to go” for the World Cup.
“I think as a whole group we know he’s ready to come back and play,” said Lehmann at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.
“We want him playing. He’s the captain of our country and he’s going to lead us really well in the World Cup. Fingers crossed he gets through the next couple of games and he’s right to go. We’re impressed with where he’s at.
“He’s going to be fresh and ready to go. We’re really confident of that – and he’s confident and that’s more important. We need him to be back and playing well.”
Clarke, 33, was injured playing against India in the first Test at Adelaide in December, and even suggested he might never play again given his age and recent injury record.
But he has stepped up his recovery and took part in fielding drills and net sessions yesterday, having played in Sydney grade cricket at the weekend.
In Clarke’s absence, George Bailey has captained Australia’s one-day side, although the 32-year-old has struggled for form of late, making only 21 in his last four one-day international innings combined.
This has led to media suggestions of a lack of leaders in Australia’s squad ahead of the World Cup, but Lehmann dismissed the idea.
“I think 12 months ago you guys said we’d not got enough leaders in our group, but whoever is captain at the time will play the way we’ve moulded our game plan,” he said. “That’s Michael first and foremost, then George, and if they’re both not there then it’s Steven (Smith). I don’t know why we’re worried about leaders too much.
“We know what’s going on with our group and we’re comfortable with where we’re sitting. We’ve had a really good last 12 months, out of 23 games we’ve won 19 so we’re in a good space.”
Australia will open their World Cup campaign against England on February 14, having enjoyed three wins over their old rivals in the recent Triangular Series which finished on Sunday as Australia won the final by 112 runs.
However, Lehmann will take nothing for granted, having seen England take up strong positions in two of those matches before letting it slip.
“We’ve played well against them, we certainly played well on Sunday, I was really pleased,” he said.
“But they played well against us in Hobart and we just got over the line that day.
“One-day cricket is a different format and you have to play well on the day.
“We don’t take any team lightly. Whoever it is you have to play well on a given day. In Melbourne, that first game, it’s an important game to set the tone for the World Cup.”
Australia confirmed that all-rounder James Faulkner is likely to miss the start of the World Cup due to a “a moderate grade abdominal muscle strain”.
The 24-year-old sustained the injury during Sunday’s Tri-Series final victory in Perth and underwent scans the following day which confirmed the problem.
Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said in a statement: “Scans on James Faulkner’s injured side have confirmed a moderate grade abdominal muscle strain which is consistent with a ‘typical’ fast-bowling side strain injury.”
Australia said Faulkner would travel with their World Cup squad to continue to be treated by the medical staff over the next fortnight.
Kountouris added: “He will receive intensive treatment for the next two weeks before we can determine when he can return to batting and bowling.”