Michael Clarke’s relationship with the national selectors and teammates has taken a turn for the worse, according to reports in the Australian media.
The situation is so bad that Clarke’s position as Australia’s World Cup captain is reportedly under a threat with the in-form Steven Smith emerging as a serious contender to lead the side.
A wretched run with back and hamstring injuries is apparently at the root of Clarke’s troubles but run-ins with selectors on selection issues over the past five months has not helped him either.
Clarke has been given a February 21 deadline, ahead of Australia’s second pool match against Bangladesh but a Sydney Morning Herald report yesterday said it has not been taken well by the captain.
“Clarke’s camp says he had initially been given until March 4 — the fourth pool match against Afghanistan — to prove his fitness,” said the report.
Clarke’s views as commentator during the Test series against India did not go down well with the Australian team either, with the report adding players had started to rally around the affable Smith in the senior player’s absence.
The report said: “He might’ve been insightful, he might’ve shown where his future will be in retirement, but many of his teammates were far from impressed as their captain openly discussed strategies, technique and what players were thinking and should be doing in the centre.
“Smith is a laid-back character who carries a form guide in his back pocket. Clarke has often been described as a player who would rather spend time with celebrity mates,” the report added.
Meanwhile, Smith tackled the captaincy issue with a straight bat yesterday.
“It’s been really good to take over temporarily and have a taste of it and I really enjoyed it,” he said.
“I don’t really like to think about it too much regarding the future but I just like to stay as level headed as I can and take each day as it comes.
“If that kind of thing happens in the future, then great, but if not, that’s OK too. I’m just happy with where everything is at at the moment and hopefully I can continue playing well.
“I think when Michael’s fit and ready to go again he steps back into that role, I have no issue with that whatsoever. I have no issue with him to take the reins.
“He’s done a terrific job over a long period of time, he’s a great person to have in the team, it’s all his when he’s ready to come back.”
Australia have rarely felt the absence of Clarke in the World Cup build-up winning three of the four games in the ongoing tri-series.
Current captain George Bailey has led the side admirably but his poor run of scores is a cause for concern and many believe Smith would be a better choice at the World Cup if Clarke fails the fitness test.
Meanwhile, Shane Watson was unsure if he would be fit for the tri-series final against England or India but has no intention of missing the upcoming World Cup.
Watson, 33, was sidelined for Friday’s win over England and the washed out game against India in Sydney on Monday with a tight hamstring but said his recovery was “travelling really well”.
“(It’s) nothing too serious, but more so a precaution just to make sure it settles down over this week and be ready to go again by Sunday in Perth,” he said. “If not then, the practice matches leading into the World Cup.”
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