Refreshed Clarke leaves for Caribbean
Michael Clarke was the subject of some criticism when he chose to ignore the advice of Australia's physio Alex Kountouris and play through a hamstring strain in the latter part of the home ODI triangular series. However the misadventures of the team so far in the Caribbean have proved that Clarke's hesitance about missing matches was well-founded, as the tourists are now facing the prospect of a first series loss since he took over the captaincy from Ricky Ponting.
Having recovered from the hamstring strain that he aggravated by playing on in Australia, Clarke flew out to the West Indies on Sunday in order to have plenty of acclimatisation time ahead of a warm-up match and three Tests against the hosts in Barbados, Trinidad and Dominica. Clarke will not take part in the final ODI, but has watched his team-mates intently from afar, noting the difficulty presented by the slow, turning pitches of St Vincent and a feisty home side.
"Conditions have been tough. I've watched a lot of it on television," Clarke said. "The wickets look really slow and they're spinning a fair bit, a lot different to what we've faced in Australia. It's great experience for a lot of the guys who haven't toured the West Indies before.
"It's a big game tomorrow morning for us to level the series. It will help the guys already there to have played in those conditions. It does take time to adjust. The wickets look really slow and have spun as much as any wicket around the world. We always talk about spin in India and Sri Lanka but the wicket in St Vincent, that's as much as I've seen the ball spin and bounce for a long time."
The break enforced by Clarke's hamstring trouble has allowed him time to strengthen other areas of his body, notably a troublesome back that has intervened to limit his international appearances - though never Test matches - on numerous occasions since his 2003 debut. Clarke still believes he did the right thing by playing on in defiance of Kountouris, and also feels the time off has refreshed him for the Caribbean tour.
"If you ask me I'm saying 100 percent I made the right decision - it was a finals series," Clarke said. "If you ask the Australian physio he would have liked some more time. He would have liked me to probably not play that second final but that's part of what we do. There are injuries in our sport.
"Touch-wood my body has been pretty good. I've played almost 10 years of international cricket and my body has held up pretty well. It's just now about monitoring with the amount of cricket we're playing. It's no doubt [the break has] been a positive for my body - not picked up a bat or a ball - improved strength - opportunity to strengthen back.
"I'm feeling really good. It's been a big couple of weeks of rehab and treatment with my physio. I had a fitness test Friday. Alex flew up from Melbourne and I passed all of that. It's really positive and I've got seven days before our tour game starts so I've still got a bit of time when I get to the Caribbean."
Due to his recovery program, and also the rigours of one of the longest travel hauls undertaken by the Australian team, Clarke departed two days in advance of the other Test players. He has spent some time thinking about the right combinations for Caribbean climes, and said the option of dual spin from Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer was looming larger in his thoughts now than ever.
"If conditions are like they are in the one-dayers it's certainly something we need to consider," Clarke said. "Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer are two very good spinners who have great control. I've seen them both during the Australian summer bowl very early domestically so they can control the new ball as well.
"They can tie off one end if it's not spinning but if conditions are like what I've seen in the one-dayers I think they'll both be a handful."
Edited by Abhishek Purohit
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here