Michael Clarke ready to return for World Cup

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Auckland, Feb 27: Captain Michael Clarke is ready to make his return to the Australia team for Saturday's Cricket World Cup match against New Zealand, saying he's as fit and healthy as he's been in years.

World Cup Special

Clarke injured his right hamstring in a test against India in December and underwent immediate surgery to repair it in time for the World Cup. The 33-year-old was initially expected to return for Australia's second World Cup match against Bangladesh only to see the game washed out by rain.

File photo of Michael Clarke

Clarke said Friday at a pre-match news conference that he's as tired of talking about his personal fitness as he's sure cricket fans are of hearing about it.

"It feels really good, I've worked exceptionally hard and all the boys are really excited about tomorrow's game," he said.

Clarke, who suffers from chronic back and hamstring issues, said after his latest injury in December that he feared he may never be able to play again.

But after sitting out the past two months, he's back to full fitness and prepared to lead Australia against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

"The confidence I have in my mind and my body at the moment is because of the work I've put in over the last nine weeks so I know I can walk out onto the field tomorrow and go at 100 miles an hour," he said.

"If I get injured, I get injured. I'm like any other player. But I'm as fit and as healthy as I've been in at least five years. The strength I've put in to my back and my hamstrings holds me in good stead for the future. I'm ready to go."

He met the deadline and was named to the Australian team

The Australia selectors had given Clarke a deadline of Feb. 21, the day of the scheduled Bangladesh match, to prove his fitness or withdraw from the World Cup squad.

He met the deadline and was named to the Australia team, but rain postponed match at the Gabba ground, giving Clarke an additional week to recover before his return against New Zealand.

Clarke's New Zealand counterpart, Brendon McCullum, welcomed the return of his old rival, saying he proved his leadership to the squad after another Australian, Phillip Hughes, was killed in a domestic match last year from a strike to the head.

"I think we saw how strong a leader he is and the way he carried himself and the way he spoke on behalf of the Australian team," he said.

"I think that earned admiration and respect not just from Australian people but from people around the world."

AP

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