Cricket: Odds on Clarke leading Boxing Day test team

Michael Clarke is improving in time for the Boxing Day test.Photo / AP
Michael Clarke is improving in time for the Boxing Day test.Photo / AP

Australia coach and selector Mickey Arthur says he'll give skipper Michael Clarke until the last minute to prove his fitness for the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka.

Clarke - the leading Test run scorer for 2012 - is making steady progress with light jogging and batting in the nets after suffering a hamstring injury in last week's first Test in Hobart.

Australia lead the three-match series 1-0 with selectors weighing up the need to avoid pushing Clarke's body to breaking point with the Sydney Test just around the corner on January 3.

With that in mind, selectors have already decided to rest in-form paceman Mitchell Starc for the Melbourne Test.

Tasmania's Jackson Bird, 26, will take the new ball on debut.

"It's nothing different to what I've done in first-class cricket. I've opened in probably 15 out of 17 games,'' Bird says.

"I'm definitely not going to try to do anything different.

"There's going to be a few more people there on Boxing Day.

"But that's something that I'm going to have to deal with.''

Clarke is scheduled to hold a news conference this morning after an optional training session, although Arthur says the final decision on his fitness may not be made until tomorrow morning.

"That might only be on the morning of the game,'' Arthur says.

"He's clearly improving. Whether that gets it over the line I'm not sure.

"He went far better today (on Monday) than he did (on Sunday).

"If I was a betting man I'd bet on Michael Clarke leading the team out on Boxing Day.

"We've got to be mindful as well, much like the Mitchell Starc decision, as to the amount of important cricket we've got coming up.

"We've got to be intelligent with the decision we make.

"It will be a consultation between Michael and Alex (team physio Alex Kountouris).

"We'll just be guided by what Alex and Michael jointly say.

"We'll give them right up until the last minute to make that decision.''


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