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13th-Feb-2015

Pakistan threaten stars with expulsion, Clarke stays sidelined

By AFP, Sydney

Pakistan on Thursday warned eight of their World Cup squad they face banishment from the tournament if they repeat a team curfew breach.
On a day when Australia admitted that hobbled captain Michael Clarke will miss Saturday's opener against England and organisers found it necessary to stage two opening ceremonies, it was 1992 champions Pakistan who were fighting off the first mini-crisis of the six-week event.
"Eight Pakistan players, including former captain Shahid Afridi and opener Ahmed Shehzad, were fined 300 Australian dollars (US $230) after they came late to their Sydney hotel on Sunday," sources in the team told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The team management, headed by manager Naveed Cheema, a former military man, claimed the players arrived 45 minutes late after a night out.
The players are understood to have apologised and have promised not to repeat the offence.
Team management have told the players that if such a breach was repeated they will be sent home on the first available flight.
Pakistan play their first group game against arch-rivals and title-holders India in Adelaide on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Australia and England cranked up the mind games, 48 hours before they clash in their World Cup opener which will be watched by 90,000 fans inside the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.
One of those looking on from the sidelines will be Clarke who has still to fully recover from his long-standing hamstring injury.
Not that England skipper Eoin Morgan had huge interest in the plight of his opposite number.
"Whatever team they put out doesn't really bother us. It's really important we focus on what we do," Morgan said.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann confirmed that Clarke would not play at the MCG but should feature in Australia's second game against Bangladesh in Brisbane on February 21.
Clarke, 33, top scored with 64 opening the batting in Wednesday's 188-run warm-up win over the United Arab Emirates in Melbourne where he also bowled two overs.
He was captaining Australia for the first time since his hamstring surgery almost two months ago.
Clarke will be key to Australia's hopes of winning a fifth world title, boasting an impressive 7,762 runs in his 238 ODIs with an average nudging 45.
Meanwhile, both Melbourne and Christchurch-who will host Saturday's opening games-staged opening ceremonies on Thursday.
In Melbourne, home grown star Tina Arena headlined the lengthy show, ably supported by R and B star Jessica Mauboy, singer Daryl Braithwaite as well as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
The programme was designed, said organisers, to "reflect the diversity and excitement of the 14 competing nations and include some icons in Australian entertainment".
Over in New Zealand, meanwhile, about 30,000 people gathered in Christchurch's Hagley Park for a ceremony that included performances ranging from Bollywood dance to Scottish bagpipes.