Australia news February 3, 2015

Lehmann 'sick of' Clarke's fitness speculation

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Clarke return 'ahead of schedule' - Lehmann

Australia's coach Darren Lehmann has declared he is "sick of" speculation around the fitness and leadership of Michael Clarke and insists he wants the Test and ODI captain in harness for the World Cup, the tour of the West Indies and the Ashes in England.

However, Lehmann also added that the team could not afford Clarke's injury problems to persist much longer, and spoke hopefully that he may even be fit for Australia's World Cup opener against England in Melbourne on February 14.

Persistent talk that Clarke remains at a distance from some elements of the Australian team's leadership has refused to die down despite the protests of Clarke himself. But Lehmann offered his strongest public support of the injured captain for some time, the day after Clarke said he would be happy to play on in the future as a batsman under the burgeoning leadership of Steven Smith.

"I'm sick of it," Lehmann told the Adelaide radio station FiveAA. "I'm looking forward to him coming back. He played grade cricket on the weekend which is great, he's playing up here on Thursday so I'll get to have a look at him. I had a good chat to him and he pulled up really well from the grade game. He's ahead of schedule and I think he's said that in the press as well. Fingers crossed he might be." 

Darren Lehmann on Michael Clarke: "Now when he gets back we've got to make sure he's right to go" © Getty Images

Questioned further on whether Clarke had his full support and that of the team, Lehmann replied: "Always."

"He's captain of Australia, the second most important position behind the Prime Minister as such, we need our captain playing well," Lehman said. "When he played well he got a hundred in Adelaide and we won that Test match. We took a risk with that with his hamstring and the history of it but that was for good reason for obvious reasons as everyone knows. 

"We all get on, that's the great thing. Media can say what they like. Media will speculate and people are going to have their views. From our point of view we want our captain fit, which is great leading into the most important tournament for four years. We've got the World Cup, the West Indies tour and the Ashes, and we want him ready to go because he leads this side very well.

"Now when he gets back we've got to make sure he's right to go. We can't afford it to keep going on us in important stages. He knows that, he's diligent, he's good to go and really confident he'll be right to lead us hopefully before Bangladesh, but definitely by Bangladesh."

Lehmann denied some members of the team had been irked by Clarke's commentary for Nine during the India Tests. "Not that I heard of and I speak to those guys all the time," he said. "Channel Nine wanted to get an inside view and that's no dramas. We didn't really hear what was said to be honest because we were watching and playing the game - that's what Channel Nine do and I had no dramas with it."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig