Australia v West Indies, 1st ODI, Perth January 31, 2013

Clarke backs Howard ... and Warne

Australia's captain Michael Clarke performed a feat of rare diplomacy on the eve of his side's ODI series against the West Indies as he simultaneously managed to balance his friendship with Shane Warne, and his fealty to Cricket Australia's high performance chief Pat Howard.

Of those who have reacted to Warne's parallel universe for Australian cricket in the past 24 hours, Clarke's response was the one caught in the most invidious position. He is both a part of the selection panel that advocates concepts Warne cannot stomach, and also an eager sponge for all the cricket knowledge the former Test leg spinner and his own mentor Ian Chappell can provide.

Caught between Warne and Howard, Clarke trod a narrow path down the middle, stating the former was entitled to his opinion and would be listened to by those in power, but also reiterating his belief that the latter was doing a strong job in the face of much criticism from those unwilling to watch the high-end of the game be managed by a former rugby international.

"Warnie and I are great friends and we always will be," Clarke said in Perth. "Everybody's entitled to their opinion, and he's certainly earned the right to voice his opinion on Australian cricket. I speak to Warnie often about things I can do personally to improve my game. Not only has he been a great friend, but he's a mentor to me as well.

"Pat Howard has been doing a fantastic job. A lot of people will take a lot of notice of what Warnie has to say. But people have jobs and are trying to do that job to the best of their ability. And that's all we can do. I'm a part of that as well. The people who make the decisions on who gets employed, they'll definitely take notice. They'll read what Warnie had to say. And I'm sure they'll do whatever they have to do."

Among other targets of Warne's push for change in the Australian game, the national selector John Inverarity declined to comment, other than to say he was happy he lived in a country granted a free press and unfettered expression of ideas. Warne had suggested Inverarity be replaced by his fellow selector and friend Rod Marsh.

The national coach Mickey Arthur, who Warne argued should be replaced by the former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, was less diplomatic in his assessment: taking issue with Warne's clear preference for the simpler ways of the past - namely the 1970s when his mentor Chappell led a team of self-reliant and contrasting characters.

"He's living in a dream world to be honest," Arthur told 6PR Radio in Perth. "It's just not possible [to always pick your best team] with the amount of time the players have at their disposal. He's living in a dream world and clearly he's not up with the times.

"We don't sit there and rotate players and think, 'he is going to play here and he is going to play here and there'. What we do, is we manage our players. So it's about player management. If there is a player who is not 100 percent fit, we don't take the risk with him. We want guys that are going out on the field 100 percent fine and ready to go all of the time."

Peter Siddle, Warne's fellow Victorian and one of the players referred to as part of a strong core of the current Test team, offered the following view: "That's just Warnie being Warnie. Warnie has done that when he played. He just likes the limelight."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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