|Australian hero? Clarke will need to revive the team’s fortunes to win over sceptical fans [GALLO/GETTY]|
Michael Clarke, long the heir apparent to Ricky Ponting, was named Australia’s 43rd Test captain on Wednesday, a day after his mentor quit the post.
The 29-year-old will also take charge of the one-day side, which plays three matches in Bangladesh next month.
All rounder Shane Watson was appointed the new vice-captain of the Test and one-day teams.
“I certainly don’t believe I can get the whole of this country to like me. For me it’s about earning the respect of the doubters by leading the team in the right way and playing cricket in the right way”
Michael Clarke, Australia captain
“I just want to say what a honour it is to be named captain of Australia and a huge surprise to see Ricky stand down,” Clarke told a news conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Clarke, who turns 30 this weekend, begins the job with Australian cricket at its lowest ebb since the mid-1980s, ranked fifth in the world in Tests and still smarting from a home Ashes drubbing at the hands of England and a quarterfinal exit at the World Cup.
“The key for me is we go back to old-fashioned basics. That’s batting, bowling and fielding,” he said.
“I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.
“We want to become the number one ranked team in all forms and that’s going to take a long time.”
If newspaper and website polls are to be believed, Clarke’s appointment was not welcomed by a lot of fans, many of whom take exception to his transformation from a working class boy from Sydney’s western suburbs into a celebrity.
The tattoos, top of the range BMW, glamorous apartment in the beachside Sydney suburb of Bondi and celebrity girlfriends make him a very different captain from his 42 predecessors.
Also a keen tweeter, it was via his Twitter page that Clarke apologised for not walking when given out during the Ashes defeat in Adelaide in December.
|Ponting scored a century against India in his final match as captain [Reuters]|
“My address has changed and I’ve got a few more tattoos than when I was a kid, but the person inside is exactly the same,” he said.
“I need to be continue to be true to myself, people will have their own opinions,” he added. “I certainly don’t believe I can get the whole of this country to like me.
“For me it’s about earning the respect of the doubters by leading the team in the right way and playing cricket in the right way.”
Nicknamed Pup, Clarke burst onto world cricket’s stage with 151 on his Test debut in Bangalore in 2004 and another century on his home debut against New Zealand.
He averages 46.49 in 69 Tests and 44.32 in 195 ODIs.
His form has dipped over the last year, however, and he said he hoped the responsibility of the captaincy would help him recapture his form.
“I hope it helps,” he said. “I think that’s another thing that Ricky’s taught me, to be leading from the front on the field is so important.”
Clarke faces a baptism of fire over the next 12 months as Australia follow their trip to Bangladesh with Test tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa before hosting New Zealand and India in the next southern hemisphere summer.
Ponting, who wants to continue playing in both one day and Test matches, was included in the squad for Bangladesh, which was also announced on Wednesday.
Clarke said he would welcome advice from the man he once said would always be his leader.
“I think Bangladesh will be a great test for that to see how it all unfolds,” Clarke said.
“I’m confident that if he can continue to play for as long as he has done I’m sure it will work.”
Cameron White will retain the captaincy of Australia’s Twenty20 team, which Clarke relinquished after losing the fifth Ashes Test to England as stand-in captain for the injured Ponting in January.
Watson is also vice-captain of the Twenty20 team.