Clarke's back causes Australia concern
Four days before Australia's opening Champions Trophy match against England, Michael Clarke will visit a specialist in London after his long-standing back problem flared up and ruled him out of the warm-up match against India after he also missed the West Indies game.
Clarke has had to manage his back condition through the majority of his international career so the fact that he is having further investigation will not cause overdue alarm although the timing is hardly ideal for Australia.
Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said: "Michael is still experiencing some lower back pain and as such is not fit for the warm-up game against India today. Michael will head to London tomorrow for specialist treatment and a decision on his fitness for next game will be made in due course."
Clarke sat out Australia's four-wicket victory against West Indies in the first warm-up match, in Cardiff last Saturday, with George Bailey taking over as interim captain. Clarke had batted in the indoor nets ahead of the second match against India but was not part of the playing eleven as Australia named an unchanged team.
In March, Clarke was forced to miss the final Test against India, in Delhi, after his back problems surfaced and Shane Watson stood in as captain. However, Watson has ruled himself out of filling in the leadership again after his troublesome tour of India.
"At this point in time absolutely not," he said. "I stepped down as vice-captain for a number of different reasons but at this point in time, it was certainly the best thing for the team. I'm just here to get the best out of myself and help as much as I always do anyway."
If Clarke's problems reoccur during the Ashes, Brad Haddin would be the likeliest person to step into the captaincy. Before leaving Australia, Clarke had spoken about his confidence at the back issues not being a major problem.
"I'm confident it'll be no different to what it has been through my career. I've managed to play 90-odd Test matches and only miss one through my career," he said. "That's a big part of why preparation is so important for me, I need to make sure I'm fit, need to make sure I'm not carrying too much weight, I need to make sure I'm putting in the work to be fit in eight or 12 months' time."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo