Tension between Clarke and selectors mounts

Last updated 08:53 02/09/2014
Michael Clarke
FRUSTRATED: Australian captain Michael Clarke was unhappy with the team picked that lost to Zimbabwe on Monday.

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Michael Clarke might not have liked the team he was given to face Zimbabwe, but coach Darren Lehmann would prefer his captain kept his opinions private.

Selection tension has bubbled to the surface after Monday's embarrassing loss, with indications those picking the Australian team and the man leading it haven't exactly been on the same page this tour.

Clarke made it clear in his post-match press conference that he wanted middle-order batsman Steve Smith selected for the spin-friendly wicket in Harare.

''It was disappointing he wasn't out there to combat those conditions,'' said Clarke.

But Lehmann says when it comes to matters of team selection, all conversations between the panel and the skipper should remain behind closed doors.

Asked whether Clarke had intimated he was unhappy with the team before it was announced, Lehmann wouldn't elaborate on Monday other than to say there was a cone of silence he expected to be observed.

''I would rather our conversations stay out of the media,'' Lehmann said.

The Zimbabwe defeat has exposed mixed messages at the selection table. Both Lehmann and Clarke trotted out the line pre-series that ''the best XI'' would be chosen for every match.

However, Lehmann's explanation of why Nathan Lyon was dropped against South Africa and Smith against Zimbabwe suggests the selectors saw this tri-series - six months out from the World Cup - as a chance to have a look at the whole squad.

''(With Lyon) we wanted to obviously get some time into Mitchell Marsh and it was a fresh wicket, so that game didn't spin as much as they are now,'' Lehmann said.

''(With Smith), again it was a case of making sure we give everyone enough game time.''

Lehmann denied there was a natural friction that exists in regards to convincing the captain of selections.

''No. You just chat about the side the selectors and the captain wants and that's what you do,'' he said.

''But again that's staying well between the captain and the selectors.''

Lehmann acknowledged the selectors made a mistake in omitting Smith, however he was keen to make an overriding point that Australia played so poorly they weren't in a position to be offering any excuses for losing to the worst team in the world.

''It shouldn't matter which side we put out there against Zimbabwe,'' he said.

In the wake of Australia's seven-wicket loss to South Africa, Clarke said this about what he thought the team should look like going forward in conditions not offering much for the seamers: ''I  think the selectors have got to think about the conditions we're playing in,'' he said.

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''I think we've got to use our spinners a bit more than what we have so far.''

A day later on the eve of the Zimbabwe game, Clarke revealed to the media Smith - a proficient player of spin bowling and a handy part-time leggie - was being left out of the side to make way for his own return from injury.

Spearhead Mitchell Johnson and death bowler Kane Richardson were also omitted. Clarke described the three changes as ''interesting''.

Lehmann has defended the selection of only one front-line spinner in the squad, arguing if Clarke - who has flown home for treatment on his hamstring - was fit there would have been sufficient slow bowling options.

Selectors won't consider calling over an extra squad member to replace Clarke unless another player goes down with injury in Wednesday's match against South Africa.


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