Injury-dogged Australian captain Michael Clarke says he’d have no problem playing under the Test leadership of stand-in skipper Steve Smith.
Furiously rehabbing to prove his fitness for the World Cup, Clarke has found himself battling on another front, following a report claiming teammates had moved on and preferred the leadership of the younger Smith.
Clarke on Monday insisted his relationship with Australian teammates was “exceptional”.
Eight years Clarke’s junior, Smith enjoyed enormous success after taking over as Test skipper when Clarke suffered a hamstring injury requiring surgery.
He also made by a clean sweep of the three major Australian cricket awards at the Allan Border Medal night last week.
Meanwhile, Clarke’s long-term back problem will continue to cast an unwelcome cloud of uncertainty around the batting great.
Clarke said he’d be happy to play under Smith if it was decided the younger man should retain the captaincy even when he returned.
“Most definitely I would,” Clarke told the Triple M Grill Team in Brisbane.
“I feel for Smithy because I sat in his shoes when a lot of the media were calling for (former captain) Ricky Ponting (to go).”
“It’s certainly not personal between Smithy and I. We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ll continue to be. The people that sit above both him and I will make their decisions.
“Whatever they feel are the best 11 players, they will pick that 11. Whoever they feel is the best captain for the team then they’ll pick that.”
Asked about the Fairfax report which claimed teammates preferred Smith as skipper, Clarke expressed bemusement.
“I’d like to know where it’s coming from,” he said.
“It’s obviously disappointing because I haven’t been around the team … for the last seven weeks now I’ve been away from the group, so it is disappointing that people are writing that, but they are obviously getting their information from somewhere.
“I feel like my relationship with Cricket Australia (and) especially my teammates is exceptional.
“I speak to all my teammates regularly .. (stand-in ODI skipper) George Bailey, Steve Smith, Darren Lehmann – the captains and the coaches – I will speak to regularly.”
Having made 50 in a Sydney club game on Saturday in his comeback from hamstring surgery, Clarke is now slated to play for a Cricket Australia XI in a practice one-dayer against Bangladesh in Brisbane on Thursday, as he races to be fit for this month’s World Cup.
The 33-year-old has been given until Australia’s second pool match against Bangladesh on February 21 to prove his fitness for the tournament.