PERTH: Michael Clarke shrugged off suggestions he was at loggerheads with Australia coach Darren Lehmann by telling reporters on Tuesday: “You won’t get headlines out of me”.
In the aftermath of the one-wicket loss to New Zealand at the weekend, Clarke’s observation that Australia had failed to prepare for the swinging ball was seen as thinly-veiled blast at Lehmann for an apparent lack of planning.
But when asked on Tuesday what input Lehmann had provided for Wednesday’s crunch World Cup pool game against Afghanistan in Perth, Australia captain Clarke refused to take the bait.
“We’ve trained really well in preparation for this game. You guys will get no headlines out of me,” said Clarke, who returned to the team for the first time since November for Saturday’s defeat in Auckland, having been sidelined with a hamstring injury.
“‘Boof’ (Lehmann) made it pretty clear to us today that he wants us to stay focused on what’s right in front of us this game, and we’ll worry about Sunday (when Australia face Sri Lanka in Sydney) after tomorrow’s game.”
Australia had a scare in the WACA nets on Tuesday when batsman Steve Smith was struck on his left hand while batting but after ice treatment the 25-year-old returned to practice.
Paceman Pat Cummins won’t play after injuring his left side during the loss to New Zealand but all-rounder James Faulkner is ready to return against Afghanistan.
“Smithy got hit on the hand facing a spinner, and he went back in the nets, so I think he’s fine,” Clarke said.
“I just spoke to (selector) Rod Marsh, and he wants to see how everyone pulls up after training before he selects the eleven.”
Josh Hazlewood will likely replace Cummins, leaving either Shane Watson or Mitch Marsh to be dropped to accommodate Faulkner.
Afghanistan go into the game having won their first World Cup match against Scotland last time out following losses to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Clarke refused to predict a comprehensive win for Australia even though Afghanistan’s batsmen are expected to struggle on the fast, bouncy WACA wicket.
“I think they’ve shown the world they’ve got a really good team that can perform at this level against the best,” Clarke said.
“I think this is great for the game. I’ve always been a believer in the more countries that we can get involved in the game of cricket, the better.”
Australia are fourth in Pool A after an opening win over England was followed by a no-result washout against Bangladesh in Brisbane and then last weekend’s narrow defeat by New Zealand at Eden Park.
“We’d love to win every game we play, but I don’t think that’s realistic in the game of cricket,” said Clarke. “So we certainly respect and appreciate how good a team New Zealand are, and they beat us the other day.
“It’s up to us to turn things around and come out and perform really good on Wednesday.” AFP