Back injury sidelines Clarke for 10 weeks

AP, MELBOURNE, Australia

Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - Page 18

Australia captain Michael Clarke is expected to be sidelined for up to 10 weeks as he recovers from a back injury, making him unavailable for the Indian Premier League (IPL) and doubtful for the Champions Trophy in England.

Clarke withdrew from the fourth Test against India last week, with Australia already trailing 3-0 in the four-match series.

Cricket Australia on Tuesday said medical scans confirmed the lower-back injury was related to existing spinal issues and the problem needed to be managed properly, meaning Clarke will need to rest from cricket rather than take up his IPL contract with Pune.

“We need to manage this carefully as there are potentially serious consequences with further aggravation,” Cricket Australia chief medical officer Justin Paoloni said in a statement. “He still has pain with basic activities and is not back to full function as yet. He also has a hamstring injury that has been a concern for most of the summer and will complicate his return.”

Paoloni said Clarke was having intensive rehabilitation work for both his back and hamstring, “but is still seven to 10 weeks away from returning to training and playing.”

After narrowly losing a three-Test series to top-ranked South Africa in December and then beating Sri Lanka at home, Australia were swept 4-0 in the series in India which finished at the weekend. There is serious concern in Australia over the depth of the batting stocks.

Clarke has been the leading batsman for Australia since becoming captain in 2011 and is the only veteran in the squad after the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey in recent months, meaning his availability for the Ashes series in England starting in July is crucial.

“We are confident that it will not affect his Ashes preparation, but will know more over the coming weeks,” Paoloni said.

Australia coach Mickey Arthur said he was hopeful of having Clarke back in time for the start of the Champions Trophy on June 6 ahead of the Ashes.

“We don’t want Michael to be at risk at all for the Ashes or the Champions Trophy,” Arthur said.

Clarke returned to Sydney at the weekend, while Shane Watson led Australia in the fourth Test in Delhi, saying he would have to listen to expert medical advice about treatment for his back.

“I’ve had my back issues since I was 17, so this is no different,” Clarke told reporters at the weekend.

“In regards to my hamstring, I hurt it throughout the Australian summer and it has just lingered on. I haven’t had the opportunity to get that 100 percent fit due to how much cricket we’ve had,” he said.

The Australian Test players officially get a break during April and May, but many are contracted to play in the IPL Twenty20 tournament. The squad will reassemble for the Champions Trophy in England before the first of 10 Ashes Tests away and at home.