England paceman Stuart Broad has questioned the wisdom of Australian skipper Michael Clarke rushing back from hamstring surgery to play in next Saturday’s Cricket World Cup opener in Melbourne.
Clarke went under the knife after scoring a century against India in the opening Adelaide Test of the recent four-match series.
The 33-year-old was initially slated to return midway through the World Cup but, after undergoing a punishing five-week recovery program, is on course to face England at the MCG.
Clarke returned to the middle in Sydney grade cricket last weekend and scored 34 during the week against a Bangladesh XI in a low-key match for Cricket Australia in Brisbane.
He also bowled two overs and took a sharp catch at Allan Border Field and, should he get through a warm-up game against the UAE on Wednesday unscathed, is widely expected to start the tournament.
But Broad, who admits he’s fully expecting another hostile reception from a 90,000-strong capacity crowd at the MCG, expressed surprise at news of Clarke’s recovery.
“I’d heard the plan was for him to play two games in,” Broad said.
“He’s averages 43-44 for them and is obviously a world-class player and I am sure they will want their captain back for all the games.
“He’s played a grade match, I read, but I don’t know how fit he is.
“But at the same time, do you want to risk a hamstring early in the tournament?
“You’d think they’d want him right for the big games later on.
“I don’t know how well he is going, but hamstrings are a tricky thing.”
Broad was singled out by sections of the Australian media and the crowds during last year’s disastrous Ashes series for the tourists.
It stemmed from his infamous refusal to walk in 2013 at Trent Bridge after edging an Ashton Agar delivery to Clarke at first slip via the gloves of Brad Haddin, then nonchalantly standing his ground.
Despite the chorus of boos that greeted his arrival to the crease at every ground, Broad was one of the few England players to emerge with any credit bagging 21 wickets at a respectable average of 27.5.
“I think I get quite excited by it – it sharpens me up,” Broad said.
“I had it a lot last (European) winter out here and I’ve got quite a bit of experience from it.
“I think the experienced players can help the guys that haven’t played in front of hostile crowds before.
“It can make you go into shells, but the best way to deal with it is to express yourself.”
England have an appalling record in the World Cup with the 1992 tournament, also in Australia and New Zealand, the last time they reached the final.
In the recent one-day Tri Series, Eoin Morgan’s side beat India twice but lost three times to Australia with the final in Perth a particularly one-sided affair with the hosts cruising to a 112-run victory.
However, Broad insists the weight of expectation will be on the home side next week.
“A lot of the pressure will be on the Australians,” he said.
“Ninety thousand odd people are turning up and they all expect Australia to win.”