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Doubts over captain Clarke’s fitness intensify

November 24, 2014

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Doubt over Michael Clarke’s status for the first test against India intensified Monday after he was selected to lead Australia, subject to fitness, and then ruled out of another warm-up match.

Australia selectors announced the 12-man squad for the Dec. 4-8 series opener, including Clarke despite the 33-year-old batsman missing most of the just-completed limited-overs series against South Africa after injuring his left hamstring for the third time since August.

Clarke was added to a Cricket Australia XI for a two-day tour match against India in Adelaide starting Friday to test his injury, and chief selector Rod Marsh said if the Australia captain couldn’t run by Wednesday “We can safely assume he won’t be playing the test.”

At a sponsorship function later Monday, Clarke told reporters the Australian team medical staff had already ruled him out of the two-day tour match.

“The next game that I am available for, if I can be fit, is (Sydney) grade cricket on Saturday,” Clarke was quoted as saying. “Hopefully I can make myself available, then it is completely up to the selectors to work out what to do.”

Clarke is one of a handful of players carrying injuries ahead of an important home test series and the upcoming World Cup.

Vice-captain and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin was selected for the first test, despite missing the 4-1 ODI series win over South Africa with a shoulder injury; veteran fast bowler Ryan Harris was recalled after just one first-class match since returning from knee surgery; and Steve Smith strained his right quadriceps playing against South Africa and withdrew from a Sheffield Shield match this week for New South Wales.

Cricket Australia chief medical officer John Orchard said Smith would be treated in Sydney and was likely to be fit for the first test.

Australian selectors have been concerned about Clarke’s fitness due to history of back and hamstring problems.

“We would never ever rest the Australian captain in the first test of a series but if he’s not fit, obviously he can’t play,” Marsh said. “With his recent history, we can’t have him breaking down in the first innings.”

Clarke said he was able to run at “about 50 per cent.”

“I had my first run today, and touch wood, I’m feeling pretty good,” he said.

The 35-year-old Harris will play a Sheffield Shield match for Queensland this week, hoping to bowl enough overs to prove he has the condition to return to test cricket.

If Harris isn’t fit, Josh Hazlewood is likely to earn his first test cap. The 23-year-old Hazlewood has played six ODIs for Australia, including four in the series against South Africa that finished Sunday. He took nine wickets in the series and was preferred to Mitchell Starc for a spot in the test squad alongside Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Harris.

“Josh is a young player of great talent and he thoroughly deserves this opportunity,” Marsh said. “He has impressed in the recent one-day series and we are excited to see what he can produce if given the opportunity in Brisbane.”

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Australia: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson.

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