Clarke retires hurt with back injury
Australia's captain Michael Clarke left Adelaide Oval for injections to his lower back after retiring hurt with an apparent relapse of his chronic condition during day one of the first Test against India.
The injections are designed to allow Clarke to try to bat again in the first innings with Australia now a little unsteadily placed at 6 for 354, but he must now be in some doubt for the second match of the series in Brisbane. The decision to retire hurt and seek immediate treatment rather than try to bat on was a strong indication of Clarke's discomfort, having fought so much to be fit for this match.
Clarke was unbeaten on 60 and batting comfortably alongside David Warner when he twisted slightly to avoid a short ball from Ishant Sharma and immediately grimaced at familiar pain from his lower back.
He sank to the turf at pitch-side as the team doctor Peter Brukner and physio Alex Kountouris ran out to treat him. After an attempt to stretch and a brief consultation, Clarke retired hurt to be replaced at the crease by Steven Smith.
Having fought a daily battle to prove his fitness from related hamstring problems, the sight of Clarke treading gingerly off the field will create fresh doubts about his physical readiness for Test cricket. Before the death of Phillip Hughes pushed all other issues to one side, Clarke had been in conflict with the national selectors over his ability to be fit for the originally scheduled first Test at the Gabba.
While the delay of the first Test and its move from Brisbane to Adelaide granted Clarke, Kountouris, Brukner and his fitness trainer Duncan Kerr extra time to strengthen his body, the increasing frequency of hamstring and back problems are a point of significant concern for the national team. It is why the selectors had asked Clarke to play in a two-day tour match against the Indians in Adelaide in order to show his ability to play over multiple days, a call that now appears to have been sensible.
The Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, on ABC radio shortly after Clarke retired hurt, said the circumstances surrounding Hughes' death and Clarke's central role as a leader in the days afterwards had left the earlier debate over his fitness in the shade, but acknowledged the concern about recurring injury.
"Everyone was working together with the same thing in mind to try to get Michael recovered and fit and ready to play," Sutherland said. "There may well have been some slightly different views about what was best in terms of preparation, but really that's all a moot point now.
"Things have moved on, we've seen the extraordinary and tragic circumstances of Phillip's death and we hope Michael's okay and he's back on the ground very soon. It's always a worrying sign when the Australian captain's carrying any sort of injury. We'll leave it in the capable hands of Alex Kountouris and he can weave a bit of magic overnight perhaps."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig