Australia coach Darren Lehmann is adamant his team can win the World Cup without Michael Clarke, but he’s desperately hoping the skipper will be fit for the showpiece event.
Clarke’s immediate playing future is up in the air after he re-injured his troublesome left hamstring while batting during Friday’s one-day win over South Africa in Perth.
The 33-year-old has injured his hamstring three times since August, raising concerns about his playing prospects this summer and beyond.
Clarke will miss the rest of the ODI series against South Africa, and he faces a race against time to be fit for the first Test against India in Brisbane, starting on December 4.
And with the World Cup just three months away, any more setbacks could leave Clarke hit-and-miss to take part in the tournament.
Clarke underwent scans in Perth on Saturday before flying back to Sydney to receive more treatment.
The 107-Test veteran will consult with specialists in Melbourne and Sydney over the coming days.
If Clarke does miss the World Cup, it would be a huge blow for Australia – but not an insurmountable one, according to Lehmann.
“It’s never easy when you’re losing one of your best players, but that’s part and parcel of sport these days,” Lehmann said on Saturday.
“Players have got to be adaptable.
“We’d love him there.
“But you can (still) win every game you play (without him).
“With the 11 that go on the field, we have full faith in winning each and every game.”
All-rounder Steve Smith will replace Clarke for Sunday’s one-dayer against South Africa at the WACA Ground, with George Bailey to captain the side.
Paceman Mitchell Johnson backed Bailey’s ability to fill in for Clarke – even if it happens to stretch to the World Cup.
“George has done really well as a one-day captain, so he’s as prepared as he can be if that happens,” Johnson said.
“He quite enjoys it and we back him 100 per cent.”
Lehmann said Clarke’s priority was getting to the bottom of his issues.
“It’s a concern for Michael,” Lehmann said.
“He’s frustrated, as you would be. But he’s in good spirits trying to get it right.”
Given Clarke’s history of chronic back issues and hamstring problems, the classy right-hander may decide to give up 50-over cricket after the World Cup in order to prolong his Test career.
Lehmann said that decision would be left completely to Clarke.
Should Clarke miss the first Test against India, Lehmann was confident wicketkeeper Brad Haddin would be able to recover from a shoulder injury in time to take on the captaincy duties.