Australia's captain Michael Clarke is willing to play in pain in the series-defining ODI match against Sri Lanka on Wednesday, as long as he receives a positive medical report, prospective stand-in captain George Bailey says.
The home-team’s chances of salvaging a draw in the five-match series, which currently sits at 2:1 in Sri Lanka’s favour, was harmed when Clarke sprained his ankle as the team completed fielding drills on Tuesday morning at Blundstone Arena.
Clarke was unable to bat in the nets session that followed, with team management conceding he was in ‘‘serious doubt’’ of featuring in the day-night match. He underwent scans on the injury on Tuesday afternoon, prompting him to be replaced at the customary pre-match media conference by Bailey.
Vice-captain Shane Watson’s continued absence from the team due to injury has left a vacancy for stand-in captain. While Tasmanian Bailey confirmed he expected to captain Australia if Clarke was ruled out (he led Australia for the first two matches of the series while Clarke was rested), he said Clarke would be given ample opportunity to recover.
‘‘He will obviously be given right up to the toss tomorrow to prove he is right to go,’’ Bailey said of Clarke. ‘‘There will be a little bit of pain but if he is 100 per cent he will play.’’
Wednesday’s match will be the first international appearance for Bailey, Australia’s full-time Twenty20 International captain, in front of a home crowd.
Selectors have not added a replacement player to the 13-man squad, meaning Victorian Glenn Maxwell, 12th man for Australia’s past two matches, would likely come into the team alongside fellow all-rounder Moises Henriques.
Bailey agreed the loss of Clarke would be a blow to Australia at any time, especially as it would mean switching a specialist batsman with a batting all-rounder in Maxwell.
‘‘I think if you are replacing Michael Clarke with anyone it’s a step down, and that is no disrespect to whoever needs to replace him,’’ Bailey said.
‘‘He is obviously an outstanding player so whenever you are losing – one, the experience, and two, the calibre of player – it is a challenge, which is hopefully what the guys step up into.
‘‘That’s what we are hoping and that is what we have lacked in the last couple of games . . . someone stepping up as an individual, even in a batting partnership, to fill the gaps that [were left by] Mike Hussey leaving, Ricky Ponting leaving.
‘‘With that comes huge opportunity, and that is the word we keep using and that is still there. I think if individuals within the group can stand up, particularly at the top of the order and just settle the changerooms down and get a good partnership going [it will be effective].’’
Queensland’s Ben Cutting has joined the squad as an alternative seamer, should selectors choose to change their current first-choice combination of Clint McKay, Mitch Starc and Mitch Johnson.
Having presiding over a 107-run thrashing of Sri Lanka in the series-opening match in Melbourne, Bailey said he did not think it incongruous that less than a fortnight later Australia has to win to avoid a second consecutive home ODI series defeat against Sri Lanka.
‘‘For me, that’s the challenge of international cricket. That’s been the biggest step-up I’ve found and I’m sure other guys find it the same, that that intensity of a series and knowing you play, have a day off, you play, you travel – it’s non-stop.
‘‘The change from domestically, where you might play a good side once or twice a year, once here and once somewhere else, whereas you’re coming up against world-class players day-in, day-out here. That challenge doesn’t go away, particularly with a team like Sri Lanka, which has such a great one-day record.
‘‘I don’t think we were expecting anything other than what they’ve produced. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite played the cricket we would like to be playing as consistently as we’d like, but the one positive is we know we can bat as well as we did in Melbourne. The challenge is to get back there and do it more often.’’
SQUAD: Michael Clarke (c), George Bailey, Ben Cutting, Xavier Doherty, Moises Henriques, Phillip Hughes, David Hussey, Mitch Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Clint McKay, Mitch Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.