Michael Clarke has dismissed suggestions he needs to reconsider his future in the one-day game as he works his way through a series of possible changes to his training and travel routines to try and eradicate future injury setbacks.
Clarke, who was welcoming the intake of the first group of scholars at his Sydney-based cricket academy today, is working around the clock to be fit for Australia’s upcoming first Test against Pakistan that begins in Dubai on October 22.
After being forced home early from his team’s recent ODI tri-series in Zimbabwe with a damaged left hamstring – indirectly linked to his chronic back problems – Clarke has been undergoing daily (sometimes more regular) treatment and rehabilitation sessions.
He has also been assigned a detailed program by Australia team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris who has travelled to Sydney for several days of the past few weeks to work with Clarke as the pair attempt to tweak the captain’s existing preparation regimen to prevent a repeat of the Zimbabwe setback.
But despite suggestions in the mainstream and on social media that the 33-year-old should reduce or even curtail his involvement in the demanding one-day arena, he claims he has no intention of abandoning one format or indeed the game that remains his passion.
“I know there’s been some talk about whether I should walk away from one-day cricket or how long I can play for, but I’ve had my back issues since I was 17 and I’ve managed to miss only one Test match out of 105 through my career,” Clarke told cricket.com.au today.
“I’ve also missed a few one-dayers but touch wood, to date I haven’t missed any major tournaments.
“It’s all part of playing sport at the highest level.
“You’re going to get injured and it’s about making sure you do the work to get back on the park, and while I’ve still got that drive to do that work and the love of the game I’ve got, I see no reason to consider walking away.
“You get a little kick in the guts, but you’ve got to get up and go again.
“It’s not going to be the last injury I have.”
Clarke declined to quantify his prospects of being fit for the opening Test of the Pakistan series in a month’s time, having already been ruled out of the preceding ODI component of that tour.
When asked if he felt he was better or worse than a 50 per cent chance to lead the team into its first Test match since last March, he claimed it was a question best directed to Kountouris.
But he confirmed he would depart for the Emirates next Tuesday (Sept 30), five days before the other members of the Test squad to allow himself additional time to acclimatise and recover from the long-haul flight before he resumes his preparation to play.
While he was unwilling to specify the changes that he and Kountouris have been making to the way he trains, prepares and travels, Clarke claimed there were numerous new ideas they were putting into practice before they evaluate their respective merits.
“There’s probably six or seven things we’ve discussed and it will take some time to work out if they work, don’t work or if they’re a waste of time,” Clarke said.
“It’s going to take some time to work out what’s perfect for me but we believe getting there (the UAE) a couple of days before everybody else and allowing my body to acclimatise and recover after a long plane flight is a good start.
“So I’m flying over on the 30th to give myself every opportunity to be fit and if I thought I wasn’t going to be fit (for the first Test) I wouldn’t even get on that plane.
“In overall terms, I feel as fit and as healthy as I’ve ever felt and I’m only 33 so I feel I’ve got a lot of cricket left in my body.”
Clarke said yesterday’s news that allrounder Shane Watson would miss the entire VB tour of the Emirates would not tempt him to try and fast-track his rehabilitation program, even though the absence of both experienced players leaves a sizeable gap in Australia’s Test top-order.
Instead, the captain will continue to meet the benchmarks that Kountouris has set him over the next month with a view to having the damaged hamstring and attached tendon fully mended in time for the coin toss in Dubai.
“It (Watson’s absence) doesn’t really change anything for me, it’s about whether my body’s fit enough – it’s not about the want to play,” Clarke said.
“When we get closer to the date of that first Test we’ll able to assess where I’m at and hopefully I’ve done everything he (Kountouris) has asked of me and he’ll give me the all-clear to walk out there and be able to perform.”