SYDNEY // Michael Clarke, the Australia cricket captain, said on Tuesday he believes he can play all five Ashes Tests against England and has years of cricket left in him, despite being plagued by chronic back problems.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of his expected comeback from injury to lead New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania on Wednesday, Clarke said he was ready.
“Right now I feel fit and healthy,” he said before a final fitness test.
He batted away speculation about early retirement due to his lingering back troubles, saying: “I certainly don’t believe that my back will play a part in regard to shortening my career.”
Clarke gave further details in his column in The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday.
“While there is ongoing speculation about my future, my back is no worse now than it has been for years,” he wrote.
“I have been dealing with it since I was 17,” he said, noting he had only missed one Test in his entire career because of his back.
“I have degeneration in three of my discs which require constant maintenance,” said the captain.
“That means I will always experience some stiffness and pain,” said Clarke, who has faced an intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation programme over the past month.
Clarke said he was confident Australia could turn the tables on England in the Ashes series, which starts in Brisbane on November 21, after a 3-0 defeat in England in July-August.
Meanwhile, England will face a powerful batting line-up when they take on Australia A in Hobart next week, with the in-form Usman Khawaja eager to secure a return to the Test side for the Ashes.
The Pakistan-born batsman has another chance to stake his claim after struggling in the Ashes series in England earlier this year before re-discovering his touch in domestic one-day matches.
Moises Henriques, the New South Wales all-rounder, leads the XI with Glenn Maxwell, the spin bowling all-rounder, appointed his vice-captain.
“We have struck a balance in what we think is the appropriate Australia A team to face England, while ensuring individuals have a solid preparation and chance to impress,” said John Inverarity, the Australian chief selector.
“All of the top six batsmen have shown good form of late and will be looking to impress against a quality opposition as they strive for higher honours.”
Shaun Marsh, who scored a century on his Test debut for Australia in 2011, will also be looking to impress in the four-day match starting on November 6.
Ali De Winter will coach the side with Graeme Hick, the former England batsman, as his assistant.
England face a second string Western Australia chairman’s XI in their opening tour match from Thursday in Perth due to clashes with domestic fixtures.