Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Melbourne December 23, 2012

Clarke 50-50, Starc to sit out


Australia's chairman of selectors, John Inverarity, has declared Michael Clarke only had a 50-50 chance of playing the Boxing Day Test and said Mitchell Starc was almost certain to be rested due to his heavy workload. On Sunday, Clarke jogged at half pace on the MCG under the watchful eye of the team physio Alex Kountouris, as he continued his recovery from the hamstring injury that forced him to retire hurt while batting during Australia's win over Sri Lanka in Hobart.

Clarke did not bat at training on Sunday and had his troublesome muscle strapped with an ice-pack while his team-mates worked in the nets in Melbourne's extreme heat. He took part in long discussions with Inverarity and the coach Mickey Arthur, and while Clarke remains in contention to lead the side on Boxing Day, Inverarity said a conservative approach would be taken regarding Clarke's fitness.

"He's travelling optimistically and well. But he's 50-50 as to whether he'll be fit enough to play on Boxing Day," Inverarity said. "He's a very precious asset and I would go low risk. He's always upbeat, he desperately wants to play. But we certainly don't want to push him especially hard in a Test for him to break down."

Shane Watson will captain Australia if Clarke is ruled out, and he would become the 44th man to lead Australia in a Test. It is an elite group that does not include some of Australia's greats - Victor Trumper and Shane Warne, to name just two men who did not captain Australia in Tests - and Watson said he had learnt plenty about leadership while filling in for Clarke during eight one-day internationals earlier this year.

"It's about as big as it gets for an Australian cricketer," Watson said. "There's no doubt if that opportunity arises it certainly would be … an amazing opportunity to think something like that has come along in your life. But I'm trying not to get too far in front of myself at the moment.

"The thing that really stood out to me [in the ODIs] was to trust my gut instinct. Until you captain a side you don't really realise the intuition you've developed over 10 or 11 years of first-class cricket and also being around some of the best players who have ever played for Australia. Intuition really does come to the fore and you're able to do things tactically that you didn't think you had in you."

If Watson leads the side, he will almost certainly be without the left-armer Starc, who is not injured and bowled in the nets on Sunday, but is expected to be rested. At 22, Starc is one of the younger members of Australia's fast-bowling group and after the breakdowns of James Pattinson and Pat Cummins, the selectors are wary of asking too much of Starc, despite the fact that he has taken 14 wickets in the past two Tests.

"He'll either play Melbourne or Sydney, but it would make some sense that he misses this one and plays Sydney rather than goes Hobart and then Melbourne," Inverarity said. "It's about bowling loads. The science behind it is that they've got to build up their bowling loads so the oscillations are not very significant. If they do become reasonably significant, as they have done for Mitchell, then you enter a danger period, a high-risk period."

Should Starc sit out, that would mean a Test debut for the Tasmania fast bowler Jackson Bird, who would join Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon in the attack. The backup batsman in the squad, Usman Khawaja, batted in the nets on Sunday and even sent down a few offspinners, preparing for what will be his first Test in more than a year, if Clarke is ruled out.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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  • narbavi on December 24, 2012, 4:33 GMT

    @Shaggy076: Calm down brother, i am sure he won't say such things after lanka beats australia in 3 days in the second test

  • Sean on December 24, 2012, 2:46 GMT

    Well shaggy you have a word with RandyOz & Jonesy2 cos they are giving australian fans a bad name. Then maybe he'll stop doing it. Seems like you can dish it out (when you were number 1) but you cant take it.

  • Matt on December 24, 2012, 2:33 GMT

    @Front Foot Lunge, if you want to troll properly, you need to be more subtle. At the moment, you are barely plausible. Pick up your game and put some thought into it for goodness sake.

  • Dummy4 on December 24, 2012, 2:27 GMT

    I believe "Inverarity" is an old gaelic word meaning "too clever by half". If this keeps up we should seriously consider using the label "the Australians" or perahps "random Australian selection" rather than "Australia" for our team. The old MCC sides coming to Australia only called themselves "England" in the tests because that was when they picked their best side. Otherwise it was "MCC". In an excess of smarty-pants sports science, overengineering and psychology we now can't even match that. Pick the best team available, let them play their hearts out and look after them and if necessary replace them, after they are injured, if indeed that happens. It's a sport and sport involves injuries.

  • Andrew on December 24, 2012, 2:12 GMT

    If you agrewe with the rotation policy towards the quicks or not, it is obvious it will stay in place and you have to admit their does seem to be enough science and experience behind it to think that they might be on to a good thing. The fact that they were told by the sports scientists that Pattinson would break down in the india test at the SCG and he did exactly that means that they will pay attention to it. I would prefer this then for Australia to keep having bowlers break down mid match. It also allows us to get a good crop of fast bowlers who are capable ofplaying at the test level. That can only be a good thing as well. Looking forward to seeing Bird bowl as everyone has nothing but good things to say about him and his stats are quite good as well.

  • Ashley on December 24, 2012, 2:11 GMT

    I'm with FFL on this on. The BBL is a minnow 20/20 comp and long may it remain so. Alfonso thomas, Marlon Samuels, Perera who?. Mind you there is strong similarities between Sydney Thunder team and the English team. Thats right, they are both full of foreigners.

  • Michael on December 24, 2012, 1:54 GMT

    Minnow, flat track bully, doctering the pitch, amature cricketers, street team, all these and more are the terms we here from the Indian fans who now have a team that was just humiliated at home by England, the same team that wipped them 4-0 in england. Wait till the subcontinent they said you will see then they said. So out come the derogitory terms if other people resond in kind its racisim. I can only hope for the sake of posting sanity that India manage to get it together against Minnow Aust or (3rd ranked test team) depending on were you live so we wont be subjected to more of this TROLLING from the dissapointed fans in India, when they lose its all we here.

  • david on December 24, 2012, 1:05 GMT

    Front foot lunge, you seem to have forgotten the recent series against South Africa. Was that amateurish cricket? Do you forget the whitewash against India in Australia? India is not at the pinnacle of test cricket, as their deserved slide down the test rankings show. England is far from being a minnow, and their deserved victory against India--on Indian wickets--prove this. If India keep sliding, will you call them "minnows"?

  • Basil on December 24, 2012, 0:49 GMT

    Hasn't Starc just had a weeks rest? If Watto captains this could be the makings of him as a very good Test cricketer.

  • j on December 24, 2012, 0:45 GMT

    @Shaggy076, Oh what a short memory you have there. England famously whitewashed a previously dominant Indian team to take the world number 1 position and deservedly so. England set them up on a plate for you. You didn't have to play the team of supposed batting superstars in Tendulkar and co, but hollow empty shells of cricketers who had been found out tim and again by Anderson and co. So everyone in England I can assure you just laughed when they saw the Aussies celebrating.

    Now compare that to the other India, the 'Home Lions' India. The India whose previous record at home was legendary. No matter how bad an away series went for India, they were always giants at home - remember that? That's what England have broken. Australia fighting hard against minnows like Sri Lanka just highlights in stark contrast how much scraping the barrel Australian cricket has been doing for the last five years of English dominance over them.

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