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Clarke doubtful over Hussey fitness

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Stand-in captain Michael Clarke admits Australia may be reluctant to risk taking injured batsman Mike Hussey to the World Cup.

Hussey is battling to be fit for the tournament, which begins next month, after undergoing surgery on a hamstring injury earlier this week.

The 35-year-old faces an intense rehabilitation programme in the coming weeks with Cricket Australia today saying it may not know a possible return date for another three weeks.

If that was the case, Hussey's availability would not be known until just before Australia are due to leave for the sub-continent on February 9, with two practice games to follow before their World Cup opener against Zimbabwe on February 21.

Michael Clarke & Mike Hussey

Mike Hussey has been "a huge player, not only in the Test format but over a long period of time in one-day cricket," according to Michael Clarke

Hussey's hopes of flying with the team are, however, complicated by skipper Ricky Ponting's return from a broken finger suffered during Australia's Ashes defeat.

Ponting has only a slight chance of returning during the current seven-match series against England, and Clarke revealed, before tomorrow's second game in Hobart, that Australia may be unwilling to risk taking two recovering batsmen to the sub-continent.

"I guess the concern is that we're trying to get the skipper as fit as possible also," Clarke said.

"Hopefully he will be able to take part in our two practice games and the selectors will have to weigh up if can we take Huss as well knowing he might not be fit for those first couple of practice games.

"We'll know more in time. I think the main thing right now is that Huss does everything in his power to make it heal."

Clarke admitted that should Hussey be ruled out it would be a major blow following an Ashes series in which he was the stand-out batsman.

"Hopefully he's okay. He's been a huge player, not only this summer in the Test format but over a long period of time in one-day cricket," he added.

"I think everybody's hoping that he gets fit and we get him on to the park sooner rather than later because he's had a huge impact in the one-day format for us batting in the middle order.

"I think in the sub-continent conditions are going to be quite tough for the middle order players and I think his experience and knowledge in those conditions would be really helpful."

Shane Watson & Michael Clarke

Clarke defended his MCG approach alongside Shane Watson. "My role was to get up the other end and not to lose wickets," he said

In the absence of Ponting, Clarke is set to lead Australia in the regular skipper's home state of Tasmania tomorrow, but will be hoping for a better reception than he received in Sunday's six-wicket win in Melbourne.

Clarke was booed by the MCG crowd, who were apparently unhappy about his slow scoring rate after he took 57 balls to make 36 in Australia's pursuit of 294.

The New South Welshman defended his approach today and pointed out his century stand with match-winner Shane Watson in the middle overs had set the base for victory.

"What's important for me as the captain of this team right now is to do whatever it takes to help Australia win every game of cricket we play," he said.

"I thought throughout that period when I was batting with Watto that it was important to get a partnership.

"When I first walked out to bat, the ball was reverse-swinging a little bit. It wasn't the easiest of conditions to walk out and just smack it.

"Watto was playing an amazing knock and my role was to get up the other end and try not to lose wickets, try to build a partnership. We put on a hundred-run partnership which helped us set up the game.

"If people want to see fours, sixes and wickets taken every ball, that's not international cricket.

"My role will be the same it has been over the 180 one-dayers I've played: to play the best type of cricket I can for the team, to try to help win the game. If it means I need to go steady, I go steady."

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