SYDNEY - Australia captain Michael Clarke will bat in a local game this weekend as he embarks on a gradual return to competitive cricket in a bid to be fully fit for the World Cup after hamstring surgery. Cricket Australia said the 33-year-old, who also suffers from a chronic degenerative back condition, would turn out for Sydney's Western Suburbs on Saturday and Sunday.

Then, if all goes well, for a Cricket Australia XI against a Bangladesh XI on February 5, adding a limited fielding capacity to his batting. "He remains on track for a return in Australia's second ICC Cricket World Cup match on 21 February," a statement said Friday.

"Michael is making good progress following his injury and the subsequent surgery six weeks ago," said physiotherapist Alex Kountouris. Clarke had surgery in December after badly tearing his right hamstring during the first Test against India. That ruled him out of the following three Tests and threatened his involvement in the world one-day tournament which begins on February 14 in Australia and New Zealand.

Kountouris said Clarke was on track to play the second match of Australia's World Cup campaign against Bangladesh in Brisbane on February 21. Clarke said the weekend knock was "a positive step on my road to a return to full fitness. "It is exciting to be at this stage where I can consider walking onto a cricket field again ... the signs are positive. I know I need to take things one step and one day at a time and so, for now, all I am doing is focusing on things day by day and with a belief in a positive outcome."

The news came after a week of headlines suggesting Clarke was on a collision course with Cricket Australia over World Cup selection if he failed to regain fitness in time. Fairfax Media has also reported that the team are very settled and successful under laid-back young stand-in captain Steve Smith, raising questions about whether the more aggressive Clarke would get his place back. A Cricket Australia XI will also play against the Bangladeshis on February 3 as part of the tourists' build up to the World Cup.