Clarke intent on gentle start
Michael Clarke's first tour as captain of the Australian team will be the last of the Ricky Ponting era, as the new captain said he would wait until the conclusion of the brief Bangladesh trip to impart major change. Clarke, speaking for the team in the minutes before its departure from Sydney on Monday morning, indicated that the three ODI matches in Bangladesh would be a chance to ease into the role without any significant upheaval of team dynamics.
"We're fortunate we have these three one-dayers now and then we get a good break, so it's allowed me to just focus on these three one dayers, not look too far ahead, and not think about changes that I feel might need to be made," Clarke said. "It's just been about coming home, do what you can do to prepare, concentrate on the series, and when I get back from Bangladesh I can worry about whatever else I have to worry about."
Clarke's leadership style is already known to those who have played under him, effectively leaving only Ponting to get used to the concept of taking orders from a new leader. "A lot of the guys have played under me in one day cricket or Twenty20 cricket so they know how I go about things," said Clarke. "I am a different person to Ricky but the way he's led the team for a long time the guys are certainly accustomed to, so it's going to take time for guys to adjust.
"For me it's about being open, letting the guys know if there's anything they need any time, 24/7 they can knock on my door, they can call me, and I just want everyone to have the freedom to be who they are, and play the cricket they love playing."
The notion of subtle change is supported by the presence of Ponting himself but also the long-time team manager Steve Bernard, who has presided over every Australian tour since the 1998 visit to India, but will finish his fulltime tenure once the squad returns home from this journey. Accompanying Bernard is the new manager, Gavin Dovey, who was recruited after spending time as manager of the England rugby union team.
Much like Clarke, Dovey has a difficult act to follow, for Bernard's unique blend of cricket experience - he was a New South Wales fast bowler then a state and national selector - and an amiably organised manner made him the ideal "fixer" on tour.
"Brute (Bernard) has certainly seen the start of my career, and he's here now so he's been a wonderful help, not only to me personally but to a lot of the guys who've played cricket for Australia," Clarke said. "He's been a great team manager, he's made our lives a lot easier by how organised he is, and his knowledge of the game is something I think people certainly when he's gone will realise how good a cricket brain he had.
"Not only was he a successful player himself but the amount of cricket he's watched and seen and the ups and downs he's seen the Australian team go through it's knowledge not many people have at the end of their careers. So he's certainly going to be missed, hopefully we can make this last tour a great one for him."
A little bleary-eyed following a 5 a.m. wake-up call, Clarke said the captaincy would not really sink in until he led the team onto the field for the first match of the limited overs series on April 9. "I don't think it's sunk in just yet, but I'm excited, I know what's ahead of me and my goals are simple," he said. "We go to Bangladesh and want to win this series. When I take the field and have the chance to walk out first in front of the team, it will probably sink in then."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo