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Former Australia spinner Shane Warne says the nation cannot win the upcoming cricket World Cup without skipper Michael Clarke.
Clarke made his long-awaited comeback from injury in Sydney grade cricket with Western Suburbs, notching up a half-century against Gordon at the weekend.
In a column for Sky Sports, Warne wrote that the fitness of Clarke could decide the co-hosts’ fortunes.
“I don’t think Australia can win the World Cup without Clarke,” Warne wrote.
“Australia were in disarray just over 12 months ago but under his captaincy, they won the Ashes 5-0 and then beat South Africa in South Africa.”
The 33-year-old is hoping to be fit for Australia’s second pool game against Bangladesh on February 21, but Warne says he should be thrown into the opening game against England if ready.
“We all admire Clarke’s imagination and flair as a captain so I would get him in for that first game if he proves his fitness and say: ‘This is our side, let’s get out and play’,” Warne continued.
“Good bowlers can bowl at George Bailey and make him unable to hurt you, so I would say if Clarke is fit he drops out, as the rest of the top five – David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson and Steve Smith – picks itself.”
Clarke will play for a Cricket Australia XI against Bangladesh on Thursday, but will be under fielding restrictions in order to protect his hamstring.