India v Australia, 4th Test, Delhi March 20, 2013

Injury keeps Clarke from training


Shane Watson's chances of captaining Australia for the first time in Test cricket appear to have risen after Michael Clarke failed to train in Delhi on Wednesday. Although Clarke is still hopeful of being fit for the fourth Test, which starts at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday, his ongoing back problem limited his participation at the nets on Wednesday to some discussions with the coach Mickey Arthur and on-duty selector Rod Marsh while the rest of the squad trained.

Clarke has struggled with back trouble for many years and exacerbated the problem during the warm-up on day four in Mohali and was clearly hampered by his injury while batting at No.6 in Australia's second innings. Brad Haddin led Australia in the field during Clarke's periods off the ground but with the vice-captain Watson having rejoined the squad - he batted in the nets in Delhi on Wednesday - he is the most likely man to take charge if Clarke is ruled out.

However, that would create an interesting dynamic given that Watson was one of the four men who failed to complete Arthur's so-called homework task and was left out of the Mohali Test. Watson flew out of Chandigarh the same day for the birth of his first child and when he left, he expressed his disappointment at what he felt was a "very harsh" punishment and said he would use his time at home to consider his cricket future.

But over the past few days Cricket Australia has been at pains to say that Watson is now fully on-board with the plans of the team management and he has committed to Test cricket for the long term. The opener Ed Cowan, who holds no official leadership position but is a well-respected older member of the group, said the squad had no problems welcoming Watson back after the events of the past week.

"There is no doubt about that. In his own words, he has probably decided to come back with full focus and we will accept him because he is such a great player and a good leader," Cowan said on Wednesday. "He is a senior player around the group and it is important those kinds of players are on-board because we need those guys for this team to be the best team in the world. There is no doubt he is on board with the team moving forward.

"Shane is more a lead by example kind of fellow in terms of how he prepares. He doesn't leave many stones unturned in terms of preparation and the way he has performed across all formats for a long period of time, that is an example in itself. He is a very different leader to Michael but we're hoping Michael is fine for this Test. He's such a great batsman and we need his runs and his leadership. We're hoping he will be fit."

Although Clarke did not train on Wednesday, the Australians remain hopeful that he will be able to play in Delhi, despite the short turnaround between matches.

"It's a condition that he's had for a long time and he hasn't missed a Test yet so he's not expecting to miss this but it is a day-to-day proposition. I don't know what the possibility or probability of him playing the Test match is but he's confident because he's so familiar with it and it's something he deals with on a daily basis."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mashuq on March 21, 2013, 12:37 GMT

    @F (March 21, 2013, 0:24 GMT) Agree that "australia have good young players coming through but are not quite ready for international cricket . they need to play maybe one more season and they will be ready." Too early for Joe Burns, Ashton Agar, Jordan Silk, although the first two should debut in Australia in Adelaide! Fawad Ahmed and Alex Doolan should go to England, with Faulkner on stand by. But to persist with Maxwell and Smith and to leave out Paine from the squad if they pick the leggie is what this clueless NSP will continue to do. And that won't be the worst. They'll take Cummins and he'll break down;ditto Bird. They'll omit O'Keefe and Rogers, etc. How can anyone be so lacking in vision and occupy these post?

  • Mashuq on March 21, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    Thanks for the correction @willy_upper on (March 20, 2013, 23:15 GMT). But you seem to think Hughes has a God-given right to be in the team despite having no better prospects against spin than Khawaja. Even your team endorses the favouritism when Smith who was officially designated by the coach as the extra batsman is now preferred to Khawaja because he took his opportunity. Come on! I prefer to think the comments of @RodStark have more credibility than those less sensitive to these things.

  • vishwas on March 21, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    @jplterrors funny huh??? remember last time we came to NZ we won, you came to INDIA we won....not only in test remember the trashing you got in ODIs..... first try to come in top 5 in test ranking or try to win a series in your own backyard.....

  • Dummy4 on March 21, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    larke taking a break will be good, all around. He can give more time for his troublesome back. Moreover he should not burn himself into ashes, especially when Ashes are around the corner.

    Secondly, Watto will get a chance to Captain.And every one else can find out whether it makes a significant difference in his approach / attitude /performance.

    Some of the boys who had been sitting on the bench all while, like Khawaja will get a chance in the playing XI.

  • sulav on March 21, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    Yeah, it's a bit interesting and awful as well! You oust a player from your team, but later, you welcome him because you got lots of pressure! Its completely childish. If they are okay with Watson being captain, then why they sacked him, in first part? Cricket Australia (CA) is getting abnormal and dysfuctional! They have been constantly loosing senior and experienced players like Langer, Hayden, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne, Lee, and they were pushing Watson down! Its completely not done, CA.

  • Mariam on March 21, 2013, 6:20 GMT

    @Edward Koala Khawaja is ready, get him in. As much as i want Clarke to play it can't be at the risk of him doing further injury. Khawaja would be a great replacment, he has warmed the bench for long enough, now its his time. Also Pattinson is a no brainer for Starc and I would also give Johnson a go given he like Khawaja hasn't played a game this series.

  • josh on March 21, 2013, 6:17 GMT

    NZ is the team to beat India will find this out when they tour for 3 tests next season, oh I mean 2 they are too scared to play 3 apparently...

  • vishwas on March 21, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    looking at AUS fans coments, its looks like USAMAN KAWAJA and AJINKYA RAHANE are of same breed, ever talent never chance...... i hope bothe gets chance and we may see good contest..... as an INDIAN fan I really want AUS to win the ASHES, its like ASHES belongs to only ausie, and i am sure many cant digest ashes going to england rather than ausie...:D go aus... get your team ready for ashes, and let us win the next match.....:D :D XD

  • Dummy4 on March 21, 2013, 3:16 GMT

    i think hughes is a perfect replacement for rickey ponting as far as the ashes is concerned but not in sub continent condition.

  • Chris on March 21, 2013, 3:16 GMT

    ahmed_mujtaba1 - It's an interesting point, but I don't think it's so much the amount of experiments, but the way they're experimenting. Why Doherty? Maxwell? Why not experiment with O'Keefe? Could he bowl any worse than Lyon, Doherty or Maxwell? Honestly? What about Faulkner? Why was Bird dropped for the first test when he averaged 16 in the previous series? Don't say 'player management', it was the first test of the series! The biggest letdown is the bowling. Barring the Sri Lanka series, almost every innings we've conceded 400+ if not 500+ runs. A big part of this is to do with Lyon failing to take wickets in spin-friendly Adelaide and India, but also wasting the new-ball. We've passed 400 with the bat enough times to be winning games, we're just not using the new ball properly to rip through the top orders. I want to see Bird and Pattinson open and have Harris as first change option for the ashes. Throw in O'Keefe as the spinner and Cook will have another thing coming for him

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