Michael Clarke has said he would be prepared to play on under Steven Smith's captaincy if the selectors decided to hand the job to Smith on a full-time basis. Clarke remains Australia's Test and ODI captain but Smith led the side in the final three Tests against India this summer and scored a century in every match, securing Australia the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Smith also led Australia to victory in a one-day game against England in Hobart when the stand-in ODI skipper George Bailey was suspended, and again scored a century. Clarke is expected to take back the captaincy whenever he makes his comeback after hamstring surgery, but he told Triple M radio on Monday that he would play under Smith if the selectors went that way.
"Most definitely I would," Clarke said. "I feel for Smitty, because I sat in his shoes when a lot of the media were trying to call for Ricky Ponting to retire. It's certainly not personal between Smitty and I, we've been friends for a long time and will continue to be. The people that sit above both him and I will make their decisions.
"Whatever they feel is the best 11 players, they'll pick that 11. Whoever they feel is the best captain for the team, then they'll pick that. If my time is over as a player - or as a captain - then, you know, the game moves on. I still think I have a lot to offer the team, I still feel like I can perform and help us have success, but that's out of my hands. The most important thing for me is to get fit and healthy."
A Clarke-Smith handover would not be dissimilar to the situation that took place when Clarke was appointed captain in 2011 and Ponting played on in the Test side under Clarke. However, Ponting was 36 when that change took place; Clarke is only 33, but his ongoing back and hamstring injuries have left significant doubt as to how much cricket he will play in the future.
Last week, Clarke had said that he hoped to remain as captain for the rest of his career, if the selectors considered him the right man for the job. At the time, he said: "I think I've earned that respect, I think I've played some really good cricket and from the information I have the selectors are really happy with my performances - personally and also with my captaincy. I've heard no different at this stage."
Clarke made his return from injury in grade cricket in Sydney on Saturday, but it remains to be seen whether he will be ready for the step up to international cricket by the deadline of February 21 imposed by the selectors when they chose the World Cup squad.