India in Australia 2014-15 December 14, 2014

Clarke doubt opens captaincy debate

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Who can replace unfit Clarke?

Australia's selectors and board will deliberate overnight on the choice of captain for Wednesday's second Test at the Gabba, after Michael Clarke's frank admission about his clouded future gave all parties reason for pause.

The longtime deputy Brad Haddin took up the role when Clarke was indisposed by another hamstring injury on the final day in Adelaide, and had been mooted earlier this summer by the team performance manager Pat Howard as his preferred recommendation for stand-in leader.

However the uncertain nature of Clarke's return date beyond the end of the India series, plus the burgeoning leadership skills of Steven Smith in particular, leave the selectors and board to ponder whether now is the time to be thinking longer term than Haddin, given the fact the wicketkeeper has planned for next year's World Cup and Ashes tour but no further. The coach Darren Lehmann said discussions may stretch beyond Haddin.

"He brings experience and his knowledge of the game - really pleased with what he did on the last afternoon," Lehmann said. "From our point of view we will have to work that out as a selection panel and then go to the board and see what they say. There's always change, isn't there, sometimes, you never know.

"It will be a case of getting ready for Brisbane with a short turnaround of three days. Outstanding Test match, India were fantastic as well, but we have to move on reasonably quickly, and get prepared for life without the captain for the next few Test matches. I think he will be back. You have your fingers crossed. We will wait and see."

Smith, David Warner and Shane Watson all took turns manoeuvring fielders and cajoling bowlers after tea on day five in Adelaide, where an eight-wicket denouement concluded what Lehmann called "probably the best" Test match he had been involved in. A probable compromise between present and future would be the appointment of Haddin as captain and Smith as deputy, the same roles they shared on the Australia A tour of England in 2013.

Clarke was included in Australia's World Cup preliminary squad of 30, and Lehmann said the selectors had perused tournament regulations, which would allow him to be replaced should his back or hamstring issues rear yet again.

"We have already looked at those rules, that's not the case," Lehmann said when asked if a pre-existing physical issue would preclude Clarke's replacement. "For me, we want him fully fit. He knows he has to be fully fit for one-day cricket.

"He was magnificent in this Test match and he has been magnificent the last few weeks with what's happened with our team and what has happened with Phillip and his family. He needs to get it right. He knows that. We know that. One day cricket is an explosive game and we need guys fully fit all the time."

Fitness will also be a point of discussion for Australia's pacemen, after all of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle looked short of their best in Adelaide. Josh Hazlewood is waiting in the wings, while Mitchell Starc has also been added to the squad for the Gabba. Siddle battled a stomach bug during the early part of the match, while Harris was understandably somewhat ginger in his first Test match after extensive knee surgery.

"I don't know, I literally don't know, he's just come back in the side," Lehmann admitted when asked whether Harris could be back up for Brisbane. "You'd like to think so at the Gabba. Having said that if they are not 100% they won't play. We might need to [make changes].

"We will see how they pull up. If they are 100% they will play. A couple of them are sore but the next day or two will tell. [Siddle] was a little bit unwell first innings. Second innings it was the nature of the game. He bowled tightly which is what we need from him. Getting some more wickets if possible. He knows that but he is doing everything he can behind the scenes."

Another man in the spotlight during the match was the opener Chris Rogers, who has not passed 50 in four Test matches since making a stubborn rearguard hundred against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. While agreeing he needed to find some runs, Lehmann spoke strongly of Rogers' value as an equable partner for Warner and a useful character around the team.

"The thing is he is a great foil for David Warner," Lehmann said. "That's what I do like, and we like that as a selection panel. But like everyone, you've got to make some runs. He knows he's got to make some runs. There is no hiding from the fact.

"But he has put on some really good partnerships with David Warner over the last 18 months and been a great foil behind the scenes, a lot of things you guys don't see. So we are really pleased where he's at, we'd obviously like him to make some more runs though."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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