Michael Clarke rift talk batted away by Darren Lehmann
FORGET talk of rifts in Australian cricket between Michael Clarke and just about everyone else.
Coach Darren Lehmann certainly doesn't have any issues with his skipper and wants him front and centre for the World Cup, with the co-hosts' first game against England in Melbourne next Saturday.
After undergoing hamstring surgery in mid-December, Clarke is desperate to be passed fit for Australia's second Pool A game against Bangladesh in Brisbane on February 21. That is the cut-off date Cricket Australia has given him to be available, or be replaced.
Some media reports have suggested Clarke's bid to play in the World Cup has created a rift between him, teammates and officials, particularly with George Bailey and Steve Smith leading the team well in his absence.
But Lehmann rubbished that speculation while talking to reporters at Allan Border Field in Brisbane yesterday, as Clarke trained in preparation to play for a Cricket Australia XI against Bangladesh at the ground today.
"We want him playing," Lehmann said.
"Fingers crossed he gets through the next couple of games and he's right to go.
"We're impressed where he's at and we're quite confident he's going to be ready to go.
"We've just got to deal with that (negative publicity). We know what's going on with our group and we're really comfortable with where we're sitting."
Clarke, who made 51 for club side Western Suburbs last weekend in his first game since the surgery, will bat today and play a reduced role in the field.
Bangladesh bowling coach Heath Streak cheekily suggested his team would allow the Aussie skipper plenty of singles in order to test out his troubled hamstring, but Lehmann said there was a growing confidence in the Australian camp that its leader would not break down again.
"He's ahead of schedule. Hopefully he gets through without any dramas, gets another box ticked and away we go," Lehmann said.
"The World Cup's pretty important for everyone. Michael as captain of the side, he wants to lead his side really well through the World Cup, and win a World Cup."
Meanwhile, Lehmann had some more positive news on the injury front regarding key all-rounder James Faulkner who suffered a side strain while bowling against England in the tri-series final on Sunday.
"We'll see how he goes next week and we'll go from there. But it's not as bad as first thought which is great signs for us," the coach said.