Clarke named captain for Bangladesh tour
Michael Clarke will lead his predecessor Ricky Ponting and a little-changed touring party to Bangladesh for three limited overs matches after being officially named Australia's new captain on Wednesday. Clarke will captain Australia in Tests and ODIs, while Cameron White continues as national Twenty20 captain.
There was no surprise at the sight of Clarke suited up at the SCG for the announcement, taking on the mantle that he has waited patiently for over a lengthy tenure as vice-captain. "It is a great honour to be appointed captain of Australia but at the same time a great surprise as I wasn't expecting Ricky Ponting to stand down," Clarke said. "I have always respected those who have come before me in this role and humbled to think of my name being mentioned alongside theirs."
It did not take long for the matter of Clarke's popularity to be raised, given another raft of public polls that confirmed he was far from the public's stand-out choice as leader.
"I don't know exactly why it's there, but it is and it has probably been there over the whole of my career," he said. "Hopefully I can earn the respect of the doubters who are out there. No doubt it's about how I conduct myself on and off the field, I need to continue to be true to myself, and people are entitled to their own opinion but it is important I do everything in the interests of the team, and try to do everything I can to be the best captain I can possibly be.
"I don't sit here and believe I can get the whole of this country to like me, people are always going to have their own views, but for me it's about respect, it's about earning that respect, leading the team in the right way, playing cricket in the right manner."
Shane Watson will be the new vice-captain under Clarke. Xavier Doherty has replaced Jason Kejza as the lead spinner in the squad, while James Pattinson has been recalled in place of the retired Shaun Tait. David Hussey is unable to tour due to the imminent birth of his first child.
Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said in a statement that Doherty deserved his spot in side. "Xavier was not considered for the ICC Cricket World Cup because of a nagging back injury. Jason bowled well in the World Cup, but now Xavier has recovered from injury he deserves to come back into the squad."
He also said that Watson has been earmarked as a player with leadership potential. "Shane Watson is a critical player for Australia's future and has been identified over the last 12-18 months as someone with leadership potential and we are sure Shane will relish the challenge of being a part of the leadership group needed to guide Australia through this exciting but challenging time."
Clarke said the Bangladesh tour would allow him to strike the right balance in his changed relationship with Ponting, laughing off suggestions the former leader was "the elephant in the room".
"I certainly don't think Ricky's any elephant in any room," Clarke said. "He's been an amazing player for a long time and I think Bangladesh is going to be a great test for that, to see how it all unfolds. I know he will allow me to do my job to the best of my ability. I have a very good working relationship with Punter and I'm confident that if he can continue to play as well as he has done for such a long time, I'm certain it can work."
While Clarke will have the final call on the batting order whenever he leads, he forecast a summit with Ponting, vice-captain Watson, chairman of selectors Hilditch and coach Tim Nielsen about where the former skipper would bat in Tests.
"I think we have a great opportunity after these three one dayers in Bangladesh to sit down and have a look at our Test cricket and one day cricket and work that out," Clarke said. "In these one dayers coming up I don't see any reason why Ricky Ponting won't bat at No.3, his last game for Australia he scored a hundred, he's had an amazing career batting at No.3.
"I certainly don't think that'll change in these three one day matches, and then we can sit down and have that conversation and assess when we get back."
Squad: Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Ricky Ponting, Cameron White, Mike Hussey, Callum Ferguson, Tim Paine (wk), Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings, Brett Lee, Xavier Doherty, James Pattinson.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo