Lehmann says Oz cannot `fret over` Clarke`s fitness before return Ashes

Sydney: Australian coach Darren Lehmann has said that the nation cannot afford to worry about the fitness of captain Michael Clarke before the Ashes, even though his absence could be a major blow.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Clarke on Thursday explained how much of a burden his chronic back injury was, and said he was not certain to be available for the first Test in Brisbane late next month.

Losing a player who has topped the batting averages in three of the past four Test series would leave a gaping hole in a side that has not won a Test since January and lost seven out of nine since then, the report said.

Lehmann acknowledged Clarke was in a race against time to be fit for the Gabba Test, which starts on November 21, and said Australia could not base its planning around the wounded captain, the report added.

Despite being diagnosed with a degenerative disc condition at the age of 17, Clarke has only missed one Test, the fourth match of the tour of India in March, through injury since his debut in 2004, the report further said.