Coach Lehmann backs Clarke as Australia captain


SYDNEY: Australia coach Darren Lehmann on Wednesday offered his full support for Michael Clarke to return as captain for the World Cup after weeks of speculation over the 33-year-old’s career.

Asked if Clarke would be skipper again if fit in time for the competition which begins later this month, Lehmann said: “Definitely.”

“He’s ahead of schedule,” to return from hamstring surgery and chronic back pain, Lehmann added.

Cricket Australia have given Clarke until Australia’s second pool match against Bangladesh on February 21 to prove his fitness for the World Cup.

But Lehmann suggested that he could resume playing earlier, saying “fingers crossed he might be”.

“Michael wants to lead his side really well through the World Cup and win the World Cup,” Lehmann said.

Clarke is set to play for a Cricket Australia XI against Bangladesh in a one-day practice match on Thursday in Brisbane but he will be restricted to batting and light fielding.

He appeared to move freely in fielding drills and in the nets on Wednesday morning as he met his Australia XI teammates, who are mostly youngsters and fringe Sheffield Shield players, the Associated Australian Press reported.

Clarke was moved Monday to admit he was ready to play under the captaincy of young gun Steve Smith.

Amid reports that the team prefer the stand-in skipper who has had a sensational summer, Clarke insisted his relationship with his team-mates was exceptional.

Clarke was forced to bow out after the first Test against India in December with the serious hamstring injury, and Smith filled in as captain with great success for the three remaining Tests. (AFP)