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11 December 2023

Clarke faces deadline to lead at World Cup

Michael Clarke of Australia looks on as he sits injured in the players viewing box during game one of the one-day international series between Australia and South Africa at WACA on November 14, 2014 in Perth, Australia. (Getty)

By Reuters

Injured captain Michael Clarke has been named in Australia's 15-man squad for the World Cup in February and March, but will be omitted if he cannot prove his fitness by the second match against Bangladesh.

Clarke is in a race to be fit for the global showpiece to be held in Australia and New Zealand after hamstring surgery and said last month it was unlikely he would play the start of the tournament.

Australia's first match is against England on Feb. 14 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"He is one of the world’s best batsmen and we want to give him every chance to prove his fitness for a tournament as important as this one," chairman of selectors Rod Marsh said in a statement on Sunday.

"We have said that if Michael has not recovered by our second match of the tournament against Bangladesh on Feb. 21, we will replace him in the squad. He understands that and is working tirelessly with medical staff to get back to fitness."

George Bailey has been named vice-captain and is likely to deputise in Clarke's absence, though in-form batsman Steven Smith has made a compelling case to lead the side.

Smith torched South Africa's world class pace attack in a recent one-day series, and after replacing Clarke as captain of the Test side for the final three matches against India, guided Australia to a 2-0 series victory.

Australia Test spinner Nathan Lyon's hopes of a recall after nearly three years out of one-day international cricket have been dashed with selectors sticking with established left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty, seen as a more economical choice if not a big wicket-taker.

Doherty is the lone specialist slow bowler in the squad, with Australia and New Zealand's pitches not expected to offer much turn.

All-rounder Glenn Maxwell has been included and can provide part-time offspin. He is likely to vie with fast bowling all-rounder Mitchell Marsh for the number six spot in the batting order, depending on the wicket.

Australia's selectors have included 21-year-old fast bowler Pat Cummins in a pace battery that includes Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, dashing speculation that accomplished test bowler Ryan Harris might win a berth.

Squad: Michael Clarke (captain), George Bailey, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson