MICHAEL Clarke has emerged from the bunker. Under fire from former teammates and laid low with a back injury so serious there was talk he may not make it through the Ashes series, the captain is expected to be passed fit to play for NSW in the Sheffield Shield tomorrow.
The news is a boost for a Test side that has grown to rely heavily on the skipper’s batting.
Clarke was withdrawn from the one-day squad to tour India because of the back injury and was not due to return to cricket until the second round of the Shield. However, he is expected to pass a fitness test this morning and will play tomorrow.
If he had led the side to India he would not have returned until next week and would have only had a few days to prepare for the game against Victoria at the MCG. George Bailey has led the 50-over side.
Clarke will captain NSW against Tasmania in the match at Blacktown Olympic Park and will be joined by fellow Test batsmen David Warner and Steven Smith in the Blues team.
When NSW plays at the MCG there is a possibility the lineup will include Clarke, Warner, Smith, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin – five of the top six in the last Test. Offspinner Nathan Lyon should also be in the lineup.
It has been a harrowing time for Clarke, who has had to deal with questions about his commitment to the team and his stewardship of it in recent weeks from former teammates Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting.
England also had a boost for its Ashes preparation with the arrival of Kevin Pietersen, who delayed his departure to attend a funeral. He was at training yesterday.
The visitors, looking to win their fourth consecutive Ashes series, are in Perth and will play a second XI side led by Michael Beer in a warm-up match that begins on Thursday.
Western Australia announced yesterday that Shaun Marsh would lead its Sheffield Shield side at the MCG against Victoria. The 30-year-old is filling in for Adam Voges, who is in India.
Marsh is in contention for a place for the first Test in Brisbane next month, although Bailey’s form in India has been compelling in the one-day tournament. “It’s a huge honour and I know it’s going to be a challenge for me, but it’s one I’m looking forward to, to help guide the young guys and get a good feeling in the group with a belief that we can go over there and win the game,” Marsh said yesterday.
“It’s pleasing for me to have worked so hard and start to see the rewards on the field in my performances, but to captain this great state is such an honour.
Clarke broke his silence on criticisms from Ponting last week about his role as vice-captain, saying the skipper had never spoken to him about any problems.
The 32-year-old also admitted he thought a lot about life after cricket. “I do, actually. In saying that, I don’t think I’m in any rush to retire,” Clarke said. “Hopefully, I don’t get dropped but, yeah, I do. I’m 32 years of age now and I certainly think about it.
“I’m pretty lucky that I’ve got some good friends who have been exceptionally successful in business and I try and communicate with them as much as I can to talk about what options I have and to talk about ideas.”
Clarke signed a deal last year to be an ambassador for James Packer’s casino company and will be the face of a development in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Packer provided his yacht for the team after last year’s Sydney Test.