Coach Ford says Clarke not playing in Melbourne Test 'big boost' for Lanka

Sydney, Dec 19(ANI): Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford has said Australia captain Michael Clarke was a huge factor behind the host nation winning the first Test match in Hobart, and added that his absence would be a big boost for the touring team.

Clarke is desperate to overcome a hamstring complaint for the Boxing Day clash, after limping through Tuesday's final day of play in the first Test in Hobart as the home side claimed a 137-run win.

Test vice-captain Shane Watson, who has led Australia's one-day international side to four wins from eight matches as a stand-in for the injured Clarke, would take over as Test captain in the event of Clarke being unfit.

Ford was asked if the tourists could exploit Watson's relative lack of leadership experience in the second Test, but the coach was careful not to fan the flames of doubt over the allrounder's tactical nous.

"I don't think it's something you can really expose. There's no doubt that if Michael Clarke doesn't play it would be a big boost for us. He's such a wonderful performer and played a huge part in taking the game away from us here with a partnership (with Mike Hussey) on the first afternoon," the Age quoted Ford, as saying.

"And then (how he) came in and played on quite a difficult surface (to hit 57 retired hurt off 46 balls in the second innings) was amazing. As a player he's a huge factor, and tactically he's a huge factor," he added.

"Shane Watson's captaincy to us is pretty unknown but I'm sure the team management and the senior players will gather around him to make sure things operate pretty similarly to how they are now. I don't think it would be a massive change, but not having Michael's skills around would be a bonus (for Sri Lanka)," he said.

Australia has included uncapped right-arm quick Jackson Bird for injured swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus in a 13-man squad for Melbourne. (ANI)

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