Sport Cricket Michael Clarke out of World Cup opener
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Michael Clarke out of World Cup opener

AAP
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Michael Clarke is on track to return against Bangladesh, but Australia selectors have ruled him out of Saturday’s World Cup opener.

Clarke was put through his paces during Wednesday’s warm-up game against the United Arab Emirates, top-scoring with 64 and bowling two overs.

Coach Darren Lehmann noted the 33-year-old pulled up “really well” and was “very keen” to play against England on the weekend.

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However, Lehmann and his fellow selectors, team medical staff and Clarke came to the conclusion that February 21 would be a more sensible return date for the captain.

“He’s very keen to play. But we’ve got to make sure when he gets back he’s ready to go and he will be come Saturday week,” Lehmann said.

“Everyone was sitting around talking about it and making sure we make the right decision.

“He just had a chat. He’s respectful of what we’re trying to do to get him right.

“We would have loved to have him available for this first game, but we’re making sure he’s 100 per cent ready to go for Bangladesh.”

In that regard, Clarke still has some progress to make.

Clarke managed an all-run four against the UAE and followed it up with a quick single, suggesting he is shaping up well for the World Cup.

The 33-year-old completed fielding drills after the match, then again on Thursday morning.

“He has a few tests today to do but he’ll pass those no dramas,” Lehmann said, when asked what Clarke needed to do to play against Bangladesh.

“It’s making sure he gets into the fielding side of it in the next week and just ticks that off.

“We’re going to stick with the plan and he’ll play against Bangladesh.”

A month ago, chief selector Rod Marsh nominated February 21 as Clarke’s final fitness deadline with the veteran to be dropped from the squad if he is not up to scratch then.

Clarke was initially given little hope of being fit in time, but has exceeded expectations in his recovery from hamstring surgery.

Lehmann noted Clarke’s part-time spin would be required during Australia’s World Cup campaign.

“He’s a very astute leader in that regard. When he comes back he’ll bowl, depending on the situation of the game,” he said.

-AAP

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