Australia's Bupa Support Team head coach Darren Lehmann has dismissed suggestions from his former teammate and good friend Shane Warne that the fitness deadline imposed on injured captain Michael Clarke was effectively setting up the skipper to fail.
Clarke has not played at international level since tearing his right hamstring while fielding in the opening Commonwealth Bank Series Test match against India in Adelaide.
That injury led Clarke to undergo surgery in mid-December to repair the damaged hamstring tendon, and while he was expected to undergo 10 weeks of rehabilitation before returning to full competition the 33-year-old was named to lead Australia in the current World Cup.
At the naming of that 15-man squad last month, chair of the National Selection Panel Rod Marsh announced that Clarke had been given until this Saturday's World Cup match against Bangladesh in Brisbane to prove his fitness or he would be ruled out for the entire tournament.
Warne, a long-time friend of the Australia captain, had told the Nine Network that he believed the February 21 deadline which is less than 10 weeks after the initial surgery was an attempt by Cricket Australia officials to "break" Clarke.
"I think they've just tried to break him and I suppose for him he feels like he's trying to be broken." Warne told Today before adding that Clarke was ready to return against Bangladesh at the Gabba.
"His back and his hamstrings are absolutely fine, he's ready to go and I'm sure he's itching (to play)... he wishes he could play tomorrow night because he's ready.
"He top-scored the other day in the practice match (against the UAE in Melbourne three days before Australia's World Cup opener against England) after not having a bat for a long time.
"(But) he's just going to have wait an extra bit and stick to the plan and when he gets his opportunity look out because he's absolutely raring to go.
"When you look down that Australian side we've got so many match-winners in that team, but you add Michael Clarke, his captaincy, his flair, his imagination and also his batting, it's definitely improving the side."
Lehmann flatly rejected Warne's claim when a recording of the interview was played to the Australia coach during an interview with Melbourne radio station 3AW's Sports Today program on Monday night, describing it as "absolute rubbish".
"We didn't talk about it mate," Lehmann said.
"Warnie's entitled to his opinion but we know that was absolute rubbish. That's his opinion.
"I can't say anything against the great man (Warne), it's just the way he wants to say things (and) that's fine."
It's not the first time this summer that the Australia coach has taken issue with comments from Australia’s most successful Test bowler.
During the second Test against India in Brisbane, Warne claimed during television commentary that he was concerned that fast bowler Mitchell Starc presented something of a "soft" image in the body language he displayed when bowling.
When told of those comments, Lehmann claimed he would phone Warne to express his displeasure while the ex-Test legspinner claimed his remarks had been taken out of context.
Lehmann went on to explain that the time frame outlined by Marsh last month was to ensure that the skipper was able to perform at the peak of his ability when he returned to the playing field and also minimised he risk of him suffering a recurrence of the injury.
"We want to make sure everyone that plays in this World Cup is fit and ready to go when they come back, and Michael has done all of that and been absolutely brilliant behind the scenes with his rehab and been really diligent and done everything we have asked of him skill-wise," Lehmann said.
"He was very close last week … It looks like he's good to go.
"He batted really well against the UAE last week, which is pleasing.
"Now it's another step to play international cricket which he'll do really well.
"We certainly didn't want to break him.
"We took it really slowly with him and he's been excellent, so from our point of view he's ticked off all the boxes he needed to."
Allan Border: Bailey to go, Watson on notice
Lehmann also heaped praise on vice-captain George Bailey who has been standing in for Clarke while he’s been injured, but who conceded last week he expected to lose his place in the starting XI when Clarke returns as anticipated on Saturday.
"George is an absolute role model," Lehmann said.
"He's a fantastic human being and he's been a great in the last 18 months as a leader, he would've liked more runs in the last 12 months, or dozen matches more so, but he's been fantastic.
"We love him and he's a great team man … it was great to see him do well in that first game."
Australia’s World Cup Fixtures
February 14: beat England by 111 runs at the MCG
February 21: v Bangladesh, 1:30pm at the Gabba
February 28: v New Zealand, 2:00pm at Eden Park (NZ)
March 4: v Afghanistan, 2:30pm at the WACA
March 8: v Sri Lanka, 2:30pm at the SCG
March 13: v Scotland, 2:30pm at Blundstone Arena