* Clarke a chance for first India test
* Not fit to play yet
* Haddin could play Sheffield Shield next week (Writes through with quotes, detail)
By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Australia are hopeful that captain Michael Clarke will be available for next month’s first test against India despite a recurrence of his hamstring injury, physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said on Thursday.
Clarke has missed just one of Australia’s 39 tests since he assumed the captaincy in 2011 despite a degenerative long-term back condition which contributes to his frequent hamstring injuries.
The 33-year-old damaged his hamstring for the third time in 12 weeks in the first one-dayer against South Africa in Perth last Friday and Kountouris said he was not yet ready to play cricket again.
“As he is right now, he hasn’t started running, he hasn’t started doing any of the functional things that we want him to do,” Kountouris told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground nets.
“So he’s not ready to play at the moment ... (but) I‘m still hopeful that he might be right for the first test because that’s two weeks away.”
Australia play India in four tests, starting in Brisbane on Dec. 4, before turning their focus towards the Feb. 14-March 29 50-over World Cup, which they are co-hosting with New Zealand.
Kountouris said Clarke was highly frustrated by the injury but was not at the stage where he needed to consider retirement because of the recurring injuries.
He also thought it unlikely that Cricket Australia would be forced to choose between Clarke playing against India or in the World Cup.
“Time is not the magic healer here,” Kountouris added.
”There comes a point when there’s no more healing to be done, it doesn’t give you any more benefits
“He could rest now for five months and the first time he comes back he could tear his hamstring again.”
Clarke’s leadership has been integral to the turnaround in Australia’s fortunes since the humiliating 2010-11 Ashes series and the World Cup that followed, where Ricky Ponting’s team went out in the quarter-finals.
Regarded as one of the most tactically astute captains in international cricket, Clarke has also led from the front with his batting and scored 13 centuries and 3,555 runs at an average of 57.33 in tests since succeeding Ponting.
Test vice captain Brad Haddin, who will stand in for Clarke if he is unfit, was training in the nets as Kountouris was speaking and the physio said he was approaching full fitness after damaging his shoulder.
“He’s pretty good,” he said. “We’re hopeful he’ll play Sheffield Shield next week.” (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)