'Michael Clarke will captain Australia'

Australia's captain Michael Clarke drives the ball during their one day international cricket match against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney. (AFP)

Coach Darren Lehmann says Michael Clarke is ahead of schedule in his recovery from hamstring surgery and will captain Australia at next month's Cricket World Cup.

Lehmann gave Clarke his backing Wednesday, saying he was "sick" of speculation about Clarke's likely participation in the World Cup and his future as Australia captain.

Clarke will take a major step forward Thursday when he plays for a Cricket Australia XI against Bangladesh in a one-day warmup match at Brisbane's Allan Border Field.

Cricket Australia has given Clarke until Australia's second World Cup pool match against Bangladesh on Feb 21 to prove his fitness or be replaced. Australian media have reported Clarke's prolonged rehabilitation has caused a rift with teammates and speculation he may lose the captaincy to Steve Smith.

"I'm sick of it," Lehmann said in a radio interview Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to him coming back.

"He played grade (club) cricket on the weekend which is great, he's playing up here on Thursday so I'll get to have a look at him," he added. "I had a good chat to him and he pulled up really well from the grade game. He's ahead of schedule and I think he's said that in the press as well."

Lehmann denied any rift between Clarke and his Australia teammates or team officials.

"He's captain of Australia, the second most important position behind the prime minister as such," Lehmann said. "We need our captain playing well.

"From our point of view, we want our captain fit which is great leading into the most important tournament for four years."   
 

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