Clarke return has team’s ‘full support’, says Johnson


The return of regular Australia captain Michael Clarke for the second World Cup match against Bangladesh has the team’s “full support” even if it will be tough to change a winning side, fast bowler Mitchell Johnson said on Tuesday.

On the comeback from hamstring surgery, Clarke is expected to pad up for Saturday’s match in Brisbane, meeting the deadline to prove his fitness or sit out the World Cup entirely.

Clarke’s return is likely to mean stand-in skipper George Bailey is tipped from the side after leading them to a 111-run demolition of England in the opener in Melbourne and scoring a useful half-century.

“I love the captaincy that he (Clarke) brings,” Johnson told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.

“He has got so much experience and George does as well. But Michael Clarke has been the captain for a number of years now.

“I know he has the boys’ full support.”

Clarke played his first match with the team in two months last week, top-scoring with a 64 in a warm-up match against United Arab Emirates. That prompted pundits to question why he was rested for England.

Coach Darren Lehmann said Clarke needed to do more tests this week, particularly in the field, to prove himself ready.

Clarke’s race to be fit has been something of a soap opera in Australia and an unsourced report by Fairfax media last month alleged a rift between the 33-year-old, his players and the country’s cricket board.

Lehmann, Clarke and seasoned all-rounder Shane Watson all dismissed the innuendo in recent weeks, while Johnson said the captain’s rehabilitation had not distracted the team.

“I know that he is ready to go,” Johnson said.

“But I don’t know from a playing point of view what the plan is. He is doing what he needs to do. He is not making it a distraction for us.

“Whenever that chance is when he gets back in we will be ready for him.”

Australia’s big win over England reinforced their status as favourites to seal a record fifth World Cup title, and Johnson said it would be hard for selectors to change the lineup for Bangladesh.

“It will be. It was a pretty short meeting after the game,” said the 33-year-old.

“But we can always get better at certain things, not lose wickets so closely together.

“(But) the fielding was outstanding throughout that innings. If we can keep that intensity up I think we are going to have confidence throughout this tournament.” (Reuters)