Clarke foreshadows his retirement
Australia's captain Michael Clarke has foreshadowed his retirement from the game, saying he has no desire to play into his late 30s as Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and others have done. Addressing a business conference in Adelaide, Clarke said he wished to have his impact on the game "in a short space of time" and then move on to other pursuits.
Clarke, 31, has led Australia with distinction over his first year in charge of the team, and has the chance to achieve critical goals over the next 18 months: victory over South Africa at home, India away, and the return of the Ashes to Australia over back-to-back series against England may all be achieved in that time, and all this would also serve to return Clarke's team to the top of the world rankings. Beyond those encounters lies the 2015 World Cup in Australia, though Clarke hinted strongly that he may not make it that far.
"I'm enjoying playing now but in time I won't be the guy playing at 38, 39, 40," Clarke said. "I hope I can have my impact in a short space of time and then be finished. I have so many goals I want to see this team achieve and when my time is up, it is up.
"I would love to see the team have success, achieve what it can achieve. And then I think that is time for me to give the reins to somebody else and go and start the other side of life I guess … get involved in some sort of business and have a family, and do all the things that are special to me and I still want to do when my cricket career is over."
As a captain, Clarke has often been paralleled with Mark Taylor, another Australian captain of great tactical skill. Taylor did not overstay his welcome as a captain, retiring after retaining the Ashes at home in early 1999, aged only 34.
One factor that will play a role in Clarke's thinking regarding how long he will continue is the back trouble that he has managed across his career. While Clarke has never missed a Test match because of the degenerative discs found in his back when he was 17, he is conscious that the condition cannot improve. "Unfortunately degeneration, it can't improve, so it's now about managing my condition," he said.
A very private ceremony wedded Clarke to his fiancé Kyly Boldy in the Blue Mountains earlier this month, and the secrecy surrounding the event was in keeping with their low-key courtship following his far more public engagement and break-up with Lara Bingle. Clarke said he remained uncomfortable with eyes prying into his private life.
"We told nobody, our parents didn't know," Clarke said. "We invited a small group of people to come away on a holiday with us - they thought it was a family holiday. And we shocked our family, let alone the world.
"I think I find the scrutiny on the field quite easy to deal with ... the stuff that I have probably found hard, and still find hard to accept, is the off the field stuff. When I was vice-captain I had a lot of media scrutiny anyway, so I was accustomed to the off the field stuff, nothing has really changed as captain."
Clarke's next assignment will be to lead the Australian ODI team on a tour of England and Ireland in June and July.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here