Stuart Clark will replace Brett Lee in Australia's World Cup squad after Lee was ruled out with an ankle injury. Lee saw an orthopaedic surgeon today but the problem, which occurred during a training fall in Wellington last week, had not improved and his recovery is expected to take up to three months.
"To get told that you can't be a chance to play in the World Cup is really disappointing," Lee told reporters. "I couldn't undergo the exercises, there's too much pain there....there was absolutely no chance of me playing in the World Cup."
The news is a serious blow for Australia's World Cup hopes after the bowling attack struggled in New Zealand without Lee, losing the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy 3-0 and failing to defend totals of 336 and 346. "It is a great disappointment for Brett that he is unable to take part in the World Cup and is a significant blow for the planning and preparation in place for the tournament," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said.
"Stuart was extremely unlucky to miss out on initial selection and despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his inclusion we strongly believe that Stuart is primed to seize his opportunity." Cricket Australia has sent a letter to the ICC asking permission to include Clark, who was overlooked for the original 15-man squad when Shaun Tait was chosen.
"I have today advised Stuart that subject to ICC approval I would expect him to be on the plane to the West Indies on Wednesday," Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's general manager of cricket operations, said.
Trefor James, the team doctor, said Lee would be unable to bowl for two to three months. "Brett has injured the ligaments in his left ankle and after further review by orthopaedic surgeon Kim Slater, Kim has advised me that the injury has not improved," James said.
Lee sent Clark a text message wishing him good luck for the tournament. "It's really disappointing for Brett, because he's a friend in the team and a friend outside of the team as well," Clark said. "It's hollow, but I'm still excited about going to the World Cup."
Australia's first game of the World Cup is on March 14 against Scotland and the squad is also waiting on the fitness of Andrew Symonds. Symonds had surgery on his arm before the CB Series finals and hoped to make a mid-tournament entry.