Australian skipper Ricky Ponting says Michael Clarke will definitely play in Friday’s first Test against New Zealand in Wellington.
The team’s vice-captain missed the final three games of the one-day series against the Kiwis, which Australia won 3-2, to sort out his relationship with model Lara Bingle.
They have since announced the end of their engagement.
While the majority of the Test-only players are due to arrive in Wellington on Monday, media and public interest will be high on the both sides of the ditch for any sighting of Clarke.
Ponting confirmed his deputy was “definitely” coming, but he was not sure when.
“I think all of them (Test-only players are arriving on) Monday, if not some maybe on Sunday afternoon,” Ponting said after his side lost the fifth one-dayer in Wellington by 51 runs.
“Michael’s definitely coming. When I have a chance to turn my phone on back in the rooms tonight, I’ll probably have an idea of exactly when.
“It sounds like he’ll be back here and getting himself prepared to play the first Test.
“It has obviously been a tough time for him in the last few days at home.
“He was given as much time as he needed to get everything sorted at home.
“He’ll come back being the vice-captain and an experienced player for us in the Test side and we’ll give him as much support as he needs when he joins the group again and make sure he’s ready to go.”
New South Wales team-mate Steve Smith will be a bystander to the media circus surrounding Clarke over the next few days, but the youngster could find himself in the spotlight by Friday.
The 20-year-old leg-spinner is fresh from a stunning return of 7 for 64 in South Australia’s second innings in the Sheffield Shield match in Sydney.
Smith’s 772 Shield runs this summer at 77.20, including four centuries, have put him firmly in the frame for a Test debut at the expense of out-of-form Western Australian Marcus North.
North, who has averaged under 25 in Shield cricket, has no warm-up game in Wellington in the coming days to prove his worth, having failed to grasp his opportunities in the Test series in January against Pakistan when he averaged 10.25.
Queensland quick Ryan Harris, who took eight wickets in the first four one-day international games against New Zealand before being rested for game five on Saturday with a toe complaint, is expected to be fit for the Test if required.
The uncapped Harris and one-Test Victorian paceman Clint McKay will be competing for a spot alongside Doug Bollinger and Mitchell Johnson.
Australian squad: Ricky Ponting (c), Michael Clarke, Doug Bollinger, Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, Ryan Harris, Phillip Hughes, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Clint McKay, Marcus North, Steven Smith, Shane Watson.