#360view: Clarke should be left out of CWC squad if unfit

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Uncertain future: Michael Clarke is facing the race against time to be fit for the opening match against England in the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.

As Australia coach Darren Lehmann rightly noted, the fitness saga of captain Michael Clarke is getting a bit too tiring. “I’m sick of it,” is what Lehmann said about all the speculation, and frankly so are we.

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In an ideal world, players who are fit before the start of a major tournament are selected and those that aren’t are left out.

However, Clarke’s is a unique case as he is Australia’s leader, an outstanding batsman and an inspirational figure. It was because of his stature that Cricket Australia selected him as captain for the World Cup at home and after his back and hamstring problems reared up again during last year’s Test series against India, he was given time until February 21 to prove his fitness.

He might prove he’s ready to go when he plays against Bangladesh today but what happens if he struggles? No doubt he will be given more time.

The Australian management is trying to ensure their best batsman is available to help them go for glory at home once the business end of the event kicks in and you can’t blame them for that.

The only glitch in the February 21 deadline plan is that the World Cup starts on February 14 with the Aussies taking on England on the first day.

Also, with murmurs of dissatisfaction regarding Clarke’s vulnerability to injury in the management camp and Cricket Australia’s harsh parameters in the Clarke camp, it’s not all rosy. All this has led to questions being raised about why Australian cricket is investing so much time in what is a sideshow to the main event – the World Cup.

Team sport is never greater than the individual and it’s this preoccupation with Clarke’s back and hamstring which is beginning to irk. Especially since Australia have an excellent replacement who has already proven his worth, over and over again.

Michael Clarke was back in action on the weekend, playing Sydney Grade cricket for the Western Suburbs.

Steven Smith led with distinction in the Test series win over India, scored runs as if they were going out of fashion and won the hearts of fans and the dressing room with his affable demeanour. Clarke, on the other hand, has seen his popularity drop, according to some reports, after his stint in the commentary box during the India Test series where he passed judgments on his players and revealed strategies. In such a scenario, Clarke might not be so badly missed.

The Aussies comfortably won the tri-series involving England and India and with captain George Bailey struggling for runs, Smith’s influence and presence couldn’t be missed. Whether Clarke adds value to the team is not the point here; the issue is if things don’t work out today Australia will have to begin their World Cup campaign with two separate plans – one with and one without Clarke. That means a change of batting order and exclusion of certain players who might have made it otherwise.

It would be a travesty if a player who played decently against England in the opener is asked to sit out if and when Clarke passes a fitness test on the 21st It’s not as if Australia have not played a World Cup without a star player before.

Shane Warne was sent home right before the start of the 2003 World Cup after a drug test during a one-day series in Australia returned positive for a banned diuretic. That development shook Australian cricket, but the team gathered itself and went on to win every match at that World Cup, including a crushing win over India in the final.

So if a team, albeit a legendary one, can cope with the sudden non-availability of one of the greatest players ever then surely Australia can manage without Clarke, as he has been in and out of the team on a regular basis now and there is an excellent option available in Smith, if not Bailey.

The Clarke sideshow is proving to be a major distraction and for Australia, who are gelling well and coming up with consistent results, it’s something that is unnecessarily consuming their time and energy. No player is so big that the entire team needs to be kept waiting for him, even if it is the captain.

Let’s hope the issue is settled once and for all and Clarke proves he is fit in today’s game. If not then, for cricketing reasons alone, he should be left out.

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CWC Countdown: 9 days to go - Crazy nines from minnows

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Austin Codrington was Canada's hero against Bangladesh in 2003.

The Cricket World Cup kicks off in nine days in Australia; Sport360 takes a look at the magic behind the number '9', with differing fortunes for minnows Canada and Namibia. 

World Cup history is filled with many a mauling of the minnows who come up against the big fishes of world cricket.

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However, with pride not at stake and nothing to lose, minnows can sometimes shock even the best in the business and there are several glaring examples with the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland winning against giants when no one even thought that they could mount a challenge.

An even smaller cricketing nation, Canada, claimed their first ever World Cup win back in 2003, when a nine-over burst from pacer Austin Codrington left Bangaldesh stunned.

Batting first, Canada were bowled out for 180 and a target of 181 looked an easy chase for Bangladesh but Codrington had other ideas.

Surprisingly, Bangladesh bundled out in just 28 overs on 120 with Codrington picking up a five-for in his nine overs conceding just 27 runs.

To this day, Canada have only won two World Cup matches, the other being a five-wicket victory against Kenya in 2011.   

Among other minnows’ records, Ireland’s Kyle McCallan has got four ducks in nine world cup matches while Namibia’s Serrie Synman has left even McCallan behind in the duck game. Synman was so shy of the balls that he registered three golden ducks despite facing just nine balls in his four innings in 2003.

SPORT360's CRICKET WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN

– 10 days to go: Chris Old's record still new 
– 11 days to go: Viv Richards wins it for West Indies
– 12 days to go: The support from outside the rope
– 13 days to go: O'Brien storm blows England away

– 14 days to go: Arvinda de Silva in world of his own
– 15 days to go: Australia bamboozle the Namibians
– 16 days to go: New format catches out India, Pakistan
– 17 days to go: Madan Lal’s 17 wickets help India to triumph
– 18 days to go: Dennis delight at first World Cup century
– 19 days to go: Economical Imran Khan of Pakistan
– 20 days to go: Bichel cleans up against England
– 21 days to go: Sachin Tendulkar the runs machine
– 22 days to go: The unwanted record of Nathan Astle
– 23 days to go: Nehra rattles England in South Africa
– 24 days to go: The great Kapil Dev's strike rate for India
– 25 days to go: Australia's Invincibles dominate for eight
– 26 days to go: Glenn McGrath's wicket-taking exploits
– 27 days to go: Zaheer Khan's striking ability
– 28 days to go: Herschelle Gibbs just loves sixes
– 29 days to go: Australia's 29-ball haul destroys India

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CWC Countdown: 10 days to go - Old's record still new

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England's Chris Old boasts one of the most impressive 10-over spells in the history of the world cup.

England’s seamer Chris Old registered the best 10-over economical spell in the history of World Cup when he, along with Bob Willis, bowled out Canada for a mere 45 in 1979’s mega event.

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The lanky seamer bowled five maidens and gave away just eight runs and picked up four wickets in his spell, while fellow Willis took four wickets as well giving away 11 runs in 10.3 overs.

Chris Old during the First Test match against the West Indies in Trinidad in 1981.

Canada’s 45 is joint-second among the lowest totals in world cup history and a record they share with Namibia while they also have the record of lowest total of 36 to their name as well.

Meanwhile, West Indian pacer Curtly Ambrose also bowled a similar spell when he struck four maidens for his two wickets and gave away just eight runs against Scotland in the 1999 world cup.

SPORT360's CRICKET WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN

– 10 days to go: Chris Old's record still new 
– 11 days to go: Viv Richards wins it for West Indies
– 12 days to go: The support from outside the rope
– 13 days to go: O'Brien storm blows England away

– 14 days to go: Arvinda de Silva in world of his own
– 15 days to go: Australia bamboozle the Namibians
– 16 days to go: New format catches out India, Pakistan
– 17 days to go: Madan Lal’s 17 wickets help India to triumph
– 18 days to go: Dennis delight at first World Cup century
– 19 days to go: Economical Imran Khan of Pakistan
– 20 days to go: Bichel cleans up against England
– 21 days to go: Sachin Tendulkar the runs machine
– 22 days to go: The unwanted record of Nathan Astle
– 23 days to go: Nehra rattles England in South Africa
– 24 days to go: The great Kapil Dev's strike rate for India
– 25 days to go: Australia's Invincibles dominate for eight
– 26 days to go: Glenn McGrath's wicket-taking exploits
– 27 days to go: Zaheer Khan's striking ability
– 28 days to go: Herschelle Gibbs just loves sixes
– 29 days to go: Australia's 29-ball haul destroys India

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