Australia v South Africa, first Test, Brisbane November 8, 2012

Australia's captain without a deputy

Australia have not named a vice-captain for the Gabba Test, partially due to the fear it would create expectations of a succession plan for Michael Clarke's eventual departure.

The absence of the official vice-captain, Shane Watson, due to injury has left the Australians without a nominated second-in-command for the first Test against South Africa, but Ricky Ponting is expected to take control should Clarke have to leave the field.

Brad Haddin served as vice-captain during last summer's home Tests against New Zealand and India in Watson's absence. David Warner was later installed as the vice-captain for the triangular ODI series against India and Sri Lanka when Watson was sidelined, but he was overlooked for the leadership when Clarke also succumbed to injury.

Ponting took over the captaincy and Warner remained vice-captain, and the set-up was a minor embarrassment for John Inverarity and his fellow selectors, who have preferred not to name a vice-captain this time around.

"We have had discussions about this," Cricket Australia's chief executive officer James Sutherland said. "The feeling has been, and this has come through the selection panel, that they didn't feel there was a need to appoint a vice-captain given that Shane is the nominated vice-captain. I think it's reasonably obvious who the nominal vice-captain would be if Michael went off the ground.

"But the selectors gave feedback to the board and it was decided that it wasn't necessary, and it may well only confuse things to be looking for someone to appoint as a vice-captain, because people might make presumptions about that appointment."

Although Warner, 26, was viewed as a player with leadership potential last summer, Australia are far from certain who will eventually be groomed as Clarke's successor. If Clarke and Watson were both to miss a Test through injury, there is every possibility that Ponting would be temporarily reinstated, but with the Australians hopeful of regaining Watson for the second Test in Adelaide they believe the vice-captaincy is not a major concern.

"With the Cricket Australia board you don't have to officially name a vice-captain for every Test match," Clarke said. "I'm certain if I go off the field there'll be somebody there that can do that. At this stage we haven't officially a vice-captain.

"There's plenty of guys - Mike Hussey, Ricky Ponting, Matthew Wade stands right beside me if I'm in first slip. We've got plenty of options there. Let's hope I'm on the field the whole time and I don't have to worry about it."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here