SYDNEY (AP) -- Australia captain Michael Clarke made his comeback from injury Saturday, scoring 51 and batting for almost three hours in a Sydney club match before slamming media reports of a rift with teammates and Cricket Australia.
Clarke made a rare appearance for his Western Suburbs club side on the first day of a two-day match against Gordon in an effort to prove his recovery from hamstring surgery ahead of the Cricket World Cup, two weeks away.
He came in at No. 3 and showed no signs of the back and hamstring injuries that have dogged his career.
Clarke said speculation his relationship with teammates had been strained during his rehabilitation was "water off a duck's back. It's another day, another newspaper sold."
Media reports recently have suggested Cricket Australia will make permanent the appointment of Steve Smith as Australia captain after his temporary elevation during Clarke's convalescence.
Reports say Clarke's relationship with Cricket Australia and team management has been strained by the way in which he has managed his injury comeback and his decision to follow an isolated program of rehabilitation has weakened his relationship with teammates.
Cricket Australia has allowed Clarke until Australia's second World Cup pool match against Bangladesh on Feb. 21 to prove his fitness or be replaced in its World Cup squad. Reports say Australian players are eager for more stability in team leadership and are willing to endorse the well-performed Smith as captain.
Clarke said he paid no attention to such speculation.
"I'm not going to get into it. It seems like some people in particular are going to write what they want to write," he said. "I'm really happy and comfortable with my relationship with Cricket Australia firstly and certainly with my teammates.
"My goal is to get fit as soon as I can and there's a time frame set by Cricket Australia and the selectors that I certainly understand and respect."