FORMER Australian Test captain Kim Hughes says Michael Clarke's inclusion in the World Cup squad will have no bearing on Australia's ability to win the tournament.
Hughes, who was at the Alexandra Headland surf club yesterday to speak at a lunch organised by the Maroochydore Australian Football Club, reckoned Australia had enough firepower to keep the recently injured captain on the sidelines without worry.
"I think whether Michael Clarke is in the side or not, it won't affect Australia's ability to win the World Cup," Hughes said. "You have got the two openers (David Warner and Aaron Finch) and (Shane) Watson at three, (Steve) Smith at four, (George) Bailey at five, then Mitchell Marsh at six, (Glenn) Maxwell at seven, (Brad) Haddin at eight, (James) Faulkner at nine and then whoever.
"Mate, it's pretty strong batting side and that's without Clarke.
"Jesus, there is no other side that stacks up like that."
While Hughes said he understood Clarke's reasons for wanting to play, he believed gambling on the batsman's fitness was a risk Australia did not need to take.
"HE WANTS to play because it's at home, maybe play a World Cup final at the MCG, and then go to the Ashes and that might be him," Hughes said.
"After that he might think, 'geez, I can't do any more'. Playing Michael would be a risk."
Hughes backed Warner to fire despite the opener's one-day average dropping to 31.40. He said the 28-year-old had enough time to lift his game before Australia's opening World Cup match against England on February 14.
"It might be one of those things where he's been playing so many Tests, but now there are six weeks of one-dayers with no swapping and changing," Hughes said.
"All he has to do is concentrate on the 50-over game and not going back to Shield cricket or T20 and I think he will benefit from that.
"It is one of those things where if you get in a rhythm early you can have an absolute blinder.
"He and Aaron Finch, for me, are the real keys."
Hughes said he expected Australia to win the Cup, but not before being tested by New Zealand.
"I think they are the dark horses," he said.
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