Clarke shrugs off fitness fears


HOBART: Australia captain Michael Clarke shrugged off fears over his fitness Friday, claiming he was more concerned about time in the middle as the World Cup heads towards the knockout rounds.

Clarke only had a gentle practice session at the Bellerive Oval on Thursday as his teammates sprinted, prompting suggestions that he was still struggling with his long-standing hamstring injury.

“I certainly am fit,” Clarke insisted on the eve of Australia’s concluding Pool A match against Scotland.

“It was more just part of my recovery. Since coming back from my hamstring surgery we’ve looked at my schedule going forward and Thursday was another opportunity to make sure I recover as well as I can, not only for this game but for the quarter-final.”

With Australia already assured of a place in the quarter-finals, Clarke said he may opt to juggle the batting order to allow more players time in the middle on Saturday.

“I think the order will be a little bit different to try and give guys a hit ahead of our quarter-final,” Clarke said.

Along with Shane Watson and James Faulkner, Clarke said he needed to spend some more time at the crease.

Fast bowler Pat Cummins will replace spinner Xavier Doherty for Saturday’s match.

Doherty played in the 64-run victory over Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday but went wicketless in seven overs, conceding 60 runs on a pitch generally sympathetic to spinners.

Now Cummins, who played in the one-wicket defeat to New Zealand in Auckland two weeks ago, gets a second chance to make an impression at the Bellerive Oval ahead of a March 20 quarter-final date against Pakistan or Ireland in Adelaide.

“I like the fact the selectors are picking players for conditions and opposition,” Clarke said on Friday.

“I think we’d be silly to pick our team today for the World Cup quarter-final.

“We don’t know what we’re going to get in Adelaide, we don’t know what the wicket will be like, we still don’t know who we will be playing against. I think we will assess that next week or in a few days.”

Scotland go into the game having lost all five matches so far and having sent all-rounder Majid Haq home in disgrace after posting a racial tweet.

“The incident, well that’s disappointing from a team point of view,” said skipper Preston Mommsem.

“But I can’t really say too much more. It is disappointing, but these things do happen, and they’ll be dealt with. As a group, we’re focused on the game.” AFP