Australian skipper Michael Clarke has hit back at speculation his campaign to get fit for the World Cup has created a rift between him and his teammates.
Clarke spoke on Saturday of his reported off-field issues during a Sydney grade cricket match for his side Western Suburbs against Gordon, which is his first step back to proving his fitness following hamstring surgery in December.
Clarke claimed the isolation of rehabilitation and the focus on his recovery hadn’t driven a wedge between him and the Australian squad.
“It certainly hasn’t been for me, it seems like it might have been for a few other people and I’m not talking about my teammates or the Cricket Australia staff,” said Clarke, who came in at No.3 at Chatswood Oval.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the boys have success and like any injured player you want to get on the park and play for your country.
“And that’s why I’m still playing this great game, because I love playing for my country and I love playing for NSW and Western Suburbs.”
Following Steve Smith’s successful stint as Test and one-day skipper, speculation suggested Clarke’s high-profile bid to prove his fitness created angst amongst the squad.
But Clarke, who has been given until the second pool match against Bangladesh on February 21 to prove his fitness for the World Cup, says he is unconcerned about the rumours.
“I’m not going to get into it. It seems like some people in particular are going to write what they want to write,” he said.
“I’m really happy and comfortable with my relationship with Cricket Australia firstly and certainly with my teammates.
“It’s water off a duck’s back for me, I’ve copped it my whole career.
“It’s another day, another newspaper sold.”
Clarke appeared scratchy at times in his comeback match but eventually found his groove and was grateful to get some time in the middle.
The 33-year-old added his rehabilitation was continuing ahead of schedule.
“It’s nice to be in a position where the Australian medical staff can allow me to come back and play for my grade club, but it’s one day at a time,” he said.
“My goal is to get fit as soon as I can and there’s a time frame set by Cricket Australia and the selectors that I certainly understand and respect.
“It’s just about me taking every single step and then as soon as I’m fit I’ll be pushing the Australian medical staff to let me get back on the park and play for Australia.”
The next step in Clarke’s recovery is to play in a Cricket Australia XI against Bangladesh in Brisbane on Friday.