Rocky road for skipper Michael Clarke to World Cup final
Skipper Michael Clarke has shrugged off fitness fears, talk of rifts with team-mates, coach and selectors and form concerns to guide Australia through to Sunday`s World Cup final against New Zealand.
Melbourne: Skipper Michael Clarke has shrugged off fitness fears, talk of rifts with team-mates, coach and selectors and form concerns to guide Australia through to Sunday`s World Cup final against New Zealand.
Clarke missed Australia`s opening World Cup game against England as he recovered from hamstring surgery during the Test series against India amid fears that he may not play again.
"When scans confirmed I had torn my hamstring (after the last day of the first Adelaide Test against India) I thought I might just have played my last game of cricket," Clarke admitted heading into the World Cup.
"I had suffered my fourth hamstring (injury) in six months and my back was flaring up."
And while Clarke has largely been a peripheral figure for the Australian team in the tournament with one half-century in five knocks his leadership has not been questioned.
Clarke was stung when asked at his media conference following the 95-win semi-final victory over India if his batting style had become redundant for the modern game now stacked up against the audacious shotmakers in his side -- David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch.
"I think I`m doing all right. I think my record is pretty good up against anybody in the world. I think my record holds its place. I`m not concerned at all," retorted Clarke.
Yet his last ODI century came against England in Manchester in September 2013 and up to the World Cup Clarke had played in only six ODIs in the previous year.
Speculation over the state of his fitness has riled Clarke at times.
"I think everybody is sick of talking about my injury, my old injury, I should say," said Clarke, who turns 34 next week and has a history of chronic back problems from an early age.
"But it feels really good. I`ve worked exceptionally hard."
While Clarke was on the sidelines, Steve Smith successfully filled in as captain to lead Australia to a 2-0 Test series victory in the three remaining Tests against India.
Reports at the time suggested the team had taken to Smith`s style, while speculation that Clarke wanted to have a strong say in when he was ready to return to the team from injury had caused friction with Cricket Australia.
"It seems like some people in particular are going to write what they want to write," he scowled.
"I`m really happy and comfortable with my relationship with Cricket Australia firstly, certainly with my teammates.
"It`s water off a duck`s back for me, I`ve copped it my whole career. It`s another day, another newspaper sold. I don`t really care."
There was even talk of a fall-out with coach Darren Lehmann and chief selector Rod Marsh over a deadline imposed on him to confirm his place in the World cup squad.
"You won`t get headlines out of me," Clarke told reporters.
Victory in Sunday`s World Cup final will be a career pinnacle for Clarke, who has won 49 of his 73 ODIs as Australia`s skipper.
"Yeah, it would be extremely special. There`s no doubt about it. It`s the pinnacle of one day cricket," he said.
"I think at the start of the tournament there was a lot of expectation and pressure put on to this team, the fact we were playing in our own backyard.
"So yeah, I think it would be the icing on the cake for the summer that the Australian cricket teams that had success in both Test and one day cricket. I`m confident we can win this World Cup."