Clarke admits he may never play again
Australia's captain Michael Clarke has admitted he may never play again after chronic back and hamstring problems overtook him during the first Test against India in Adelaide.
Clarke ruled himself out of the remainder of the series following the dramatic and emotional victory on Saturday afternoon, a conclusion he watched from the sidelines after going to hospital where scans confirmed a tear to his right hamstring.
This added to the recurrence of back trouble he suffered on day one, and the left hamstring strains that had upset his preparations for this series. All together they are enough to mean Clarke will not be seen again at least until the preliminaries of Australia's World Cup campaign in January.
But having grappled with his back problem in particular since it emerged during his teenage years, Clarke has pondered often the length of his career. He was genuinely frank in conceding that at 33 the protests of his body were only getting louder with age.
"The experts are looking at scans now, I don't know exactly how long I'm going to be out for," Clarke said. "I think the World Cup, our first practice game is eight weeks away, I'd love to take part in the tri-series, I'd love to take part in the World Cup but I just have to wait and see.
"There's no doubt there's certainly a chance [I will miss the World Cup], well there's a chance I may never play again. I hope that's not the case and I'll be doing everything in my power to get back out on the park but I have to be realistic as well.
"I think my body in general there's always that risk. This is a different hamstring, I did my left hamstring, I've done my right side of my back, I've just done my right hammy. I've got injury concerns at the moment, now I've got to go back and do what the experts tell me to give myself my best chance of being fully fit. But I think I have to be honest with myself and have a good hard think about things, definitely."
Despite these words, Clarke said he did not for one moment regret either pushing to play in the match without having played any cricket since he suffered a left hamstring strain against South Africa in Perth in November, nor returning to the wicket to bat on day two after retiring hurt when his back flared up on the first afternoon. Given his closeness to Phillip Hughes and the emotional weight of returning to play after his death, Clarke called it "the most important Test match of my career".
"I have no regrets about playing this Test match, I have no regrets about going back on the field after I retired hurt," he said. "I am extremely thankful that Alex Kountouris and Doctor Peter Brukner did everything they could to give me a chance to get on the park in this Test match firstly, but then to walk out and score some runs. The rest will take care of itself. I will be guided by the experts and hopefully I'll get another opportunity to play again this summer."
Once Clarke had been passed fit to play in Adelaide, he was duty-bound to make every effort to return to the field despite his back condition, this he did through a combination of injections, painkillers and constant work from Australia's physio Alex Kountouris.
"My back was quite sore," Clarke said. "I needed some injections and some medication to get me back out onto the park, but I've said before that's part of playing international sport, people do it on a daily basis. Once you walk into the game you have to do whatever it takes to finish that game and it was really important for me to walk back out the next morning.
"India had just taken the second new ball, India had taken three wickets at the end of that day with the new ball so I thought it was important for the team that I got out there and even if I couldn't make runs just see the new ball off to give our tail every opportunity."
Shaun Marsh has been added to the squad for the Brisbane Test as a replacement for Clarke, having also been part of the squad for the Adelaide Test before being released to play in the Sheffield Shield. Mitchell Starc has also been added to the squad ahead of the Brisbane Test as an extra bowling option.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig