New Delhi: Australian skipper Michael Clarke has backed his deputy Shane Watson to step up and lead the side in case he misses out the fourth Test against India with a back injury.
"He [Watson] has my vote to take over the captaincy if I'm ruled out. If I don't pull up 100 per cent to perform at my best, I won't be putting my hand up for selection. And if that's the case, I am confident Watson would be embraced by the team in my place if the CA board appointed him as captain," Clarke wrote in his column for Courier Mail.
Watson is being reunited with the team ahead of the fourth Test starting here Friday after he was dropped from the playing XI of the third Test in Mohali for not completing a presentation on team performance.
"If I don't play, I am confident Watson would be embraced by the team in my place," Clarke, who is suffering from a back injury, said ahead of the Delhi Test.
Watson went back home as his wife was due to give birth to their first child but returned back to join the team here for the final Test. "He understands why the decision was made to stand down four players, himself included, after our loss in Hyderabad and is determined to hit top form. Whether it's Watto or me leading the team, there is plenty for us to play for in the final Test," he said.
The skipper remained a doubtful starter as he didn't take part in the training session at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium Wednesday. "I haven't missed a Test through injury since my debut in 2004 and I'll do everything to keep it that way ahead of the fourth Test. My back has been pretty sore since I injured it during a ground fielding drill before the third day's play in Mohali, and I'm not entirely sure how it will respond over the next few days.
"It's the same bulging disc issue I've battled on and off since I was 17 and the timing of this flare-up is obviously far from ideal," he said.
It has been a disappointing tour for the visitors who trail the ongoing series 0-3 and Clarke said they need a win before launching their Ashes campaign. "It's been a disappointing tour thus far and we really need a result after all the hard work we've put in as a team over here. Yes, there are back-to-back Ashes series looming, but this isn't about that. We need to show we have learned from our mistakes over here and are ready to take the next step," he said.
The 31-year-old said Indian batsmen's success to convert starts into big scores is what separated the two teams. "One of the big areas where India have had the wood over us is converting starts with the bat. Of the eight times, their batsmen have passed 50, they've passed 100 six times and 200 twice. We've had eight instances where we've passed 50, but we only have one century to show for it."
He also lavished praise on Indian spinners and said it's been a "real" learning curve for the Australian players who haven't toured India before. "India's spinners have also played well and it's been a real learning experience for those in our squad who haven't toured India. I'm sure the experiences on these dry, turning pitches will hold us in good stead for the future," he said.
Clarke said it's time for his players to pull up their socks and show some stomach for fight in the final Test. "It is time for us to deliver and I sincerely hope I can hold up my end of the bargain in Delhi if ruled fit. But the reality is that these results are not good enough for a squad that aspires to be the best in the world."