The panic surrounding Australian captain Michael Clarke's fitness is showing no sign of subsiding as he still remains in doubt for Australia's ICC Champions Trophy opener against England on Saturday, with teammates beginning preparations without him in Birmingham.
Clarke has remained holed up in London for treatment on his back injury, which also threatens to derail Australia's Ashes campaign, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The report further said that the fact that Clarke remains in London, where he is seeing a back specialist, suggests that he is still at long odds to be rushed back into the line-up with the all-important five-Test Ashes series still ahead of him.
However, the report added, the Australian camp have played down Clarke's injury as a 'precaution', with a decision on his availability for the first match of the one-day tournament likely to be left until the last minute.
Accompanied by team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris, Clarke has worked around the clock to settle down his lower back, which he aggravated on the flight over to the UK -- ruling him out of Australia's two warm-up matches.
Without Clarke, Australia's batting line-up collapsed to be all out for 65 in their crushing warm-up loss to India on Tuesday.
Clarke has had to manage a chronic back complaint since his teenage years but, alarmingly for the Australians, it seems the flare-ups are becoming more common and harder to manage, the report added.
Image: Michael Clarke
Photograph: Tim Wimborne/Reuters