New Delhi, (IANS): Australia captain Michael Clarke on Thursday said there are doubts over his participation in the fourth Test against India starting on Friday due to his chronic back injury.
"At this stage, there is still doubt of me pulling up fit enough to play tomorrow but I've been given every opportunity. I'll have plenty of treatment again today. I've got another 24 hours to assess my fitness and do everything I can to get myself right to play this Test match," said Clarke during a press conference at the Feroze Shah Kotla.
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Clarke said he has been 'touch and go for a number of games' in the past and hoped to get fit to perform at his best.
"I've been touch and go for a number of games, especially in the shorter form of the game. Boxing Day Test this summer, I was touch and go all the way up to the end until I passed the fitness Test. I've been touch and go a number of times but I've never missed a Test due to injury so I don't want this to be the first. If I'm going to play then I'll be fit to perform at my best. If I can't do that then I won't be available for selection," he said.
Clarke said his chronic back injury will in no way cut short his international cricket career.
"No, I don't think so, it won't have any impact," he said. "It hasn't had any impact in regards to my Test cricket at this stage. I don't think it will play any role at all," said Clarke.
Clarke suffered his latest bout of back pain in Mohali - during the third Test that Australia lost by six wickets - but played on after taking pain-killers.
"Right now I've been able to manage it for what am I now, 31? I had my first scan at 17 that said I had degeneration in my disc. I've been able to manage it this long, I don't see any reason why I can't continue to manage it for the rest of my career."
Clarke received intensive treatment from team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris after Mohali. Clarke was off the field for a while during which wicketkeeper Brad Haddin took over the reins of captaincy.
However, the return of vice-captain Shane Watson after a one-match suspension handed to him by Cricket Australia for disciplinary reasons means that the all-rounder will captain the side if Clarke pulls out.
"It's a combination of things," Clarke said. "My back gets irritated when I'm in flexion and I rotate, so I hurt it the other day doing fielding, sprinting for a ball, picking it up one way and throwing it off balance, which is exactly the opposite to what my back likes."
"But I've done that a number of times throughout my career in regards to every time I field. Sometimes with degeneration of the disc, it can flare up, but I will manage it as well as I can. I'm very grateful for the people around, especially Alex Kountouris, and my physio when I'm back in Sydney, to keep me on the park consistently."
Clarke backed Watson to lead the side if he fails to make it.
"Shane has my full support as vice-captain of the team if he's appointed captain. Shane, like the rest of the players, missed the last Test match. If he was available for the Test he would have played. He was made unavailable and that's why he spoke to his wife and flew home for the birth of his first child," he said.
Clarke said Watson like other three players have served their sentence by missing the Mohali Test for a breach of discipline.
"I think Shane like the other three players have served their sentence in missing that game. He's 100 percent available for this Test match and at this stage, like I've said for a long time, he's our vice-captain and in my opinion if the board and the other selectors appoint him as captain he has my 100 percent full support," he said.
Clarke said the back pain was affecting his performance.
"I don't know if it's as bad as it's been. It's not a nice feeling," he said. "It was very uncomfortable and it impacted my performance (in Mohali), in regards to not the number of runs I made but the movement.
"I felt I couldn't move down the wicket because I was so restricted and I'd hate to see what the fielding side of it looked like. For me as a batsman, if I can't walk out there and make a hundred because this is going to restrict me doing that, then I don't think it's fair on the team to take the field," he said.
Clarke, however, added that the injury was slowly improving.
"It's slowly improving. If you ask Alex or the team doctor they might have a different impression but, hopefully, a good day, plenty of treatment, and I wake up in the morning, feel magnificent and I walk out and play another Test match for Australia," he said.