Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Legendary Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne believes captain Michael Clarke could have represented the national team in their World Cup opener against England on February 14.
However, Clarke was ruled out of the match since he is still recovering from a hamstring injury. He is expected to make his international comeback when Australia take on Bangladesh on February 21 in Brisbane.
“I think he’s just ready to go,” Warne said after Clarke scored 64 in a warm-up match against the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. “Obviously the physios and everybody planned a certain path for Michael, they said ‘right this is the eight-week period, you need to do this and need to do that’. They’ve basically tried to break him. They’ve tried to break him with his fitness tests, they’ve tried to break him in all parts of it.
“To see him come through with flying colours and be fitter than he’s ever been for at least three to five years, he reckons, being that fit at the moment, he knows deep down now that he’s done. There’s nothing more that he can do. He’s done everything, he’s ready to go. I’m expecting some big things from him. He’s pretty hungry at the moment to play.”
Despite his hamstring and back issues, Warne is convinced that Clarke’s international career is far from over.
“Some of the stuff I’ve been reading – you’d think he is 45. He’s only 33,” Warne said. “I think he can still play for a long time. I think that’s what they want, they want to make sure he’s okay. Stick to the program and then he’s got longevity, he’ll make the whole tournament and go on. He’ll play West Indies, the Ashes and keep going until he’s had enough. Hopefully that’s five years’ time because we need him out there.
“He’s such a good player. You think back over the last few years, how well he’s done when the side wasn’t playing well. Let alone when it’s just started to come well under his captaincy. I think he’ll be hurting not playing this game. He’ll be itching. It’ll probably make him hungrier to play.”
Warne also admitted that he was amazed at how quickly Clarke recovered from having his hamstring surgically repaired. He compared Clarke’s injury to that of AFL footballer Nick Riewoldt, who took a lot longer to recover and make his comeback.
“For me it’s testament to Michael Clarke and his endeavors, how passionate he is about the game and how much he loves playing for Australia,” Warne said. “For four to five hours of doing that work every single day, to get himself right.
“I spoke to Nick Riewoldt last night and he had a similar injury with his hamstring and I think he was gone for 14 weeks. To show that he’s basically six weeks ahead of schedule – to someone like Nick Riewoldt who is an elite athlete. He was a little bit worse, but pretty similar. It just shows how hard he’s worked to get back.”