Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney December 30, 2010

Clarke replaces Ponting as Test captain


Michael Clarke is Australia's 43rd Test captain after succeeding the injured Ricky Ponting for Monday's fifth Ashes Test in Sydney. Clarke, who has been the deputy since 2008, takes the coveted job at a time when the team is at its nadir and the 29-year-old is in a severe batting rut.

Ponting's broken left pinky not only means he may never add to his 152 Tests, but it accelerates the transition to Clarke during a summer in which his performances have indicated he is not ready for the role. He now has no choice after his appointment - and the elevation of Brad Haddin to vice-captain - was approved in a unanimous decision by Cricket Australia's board on Thursday afternoon.

"Obviously I'm honoured, it's for this Test match and hopefully we can get Punter right as soon as possible and get him back into whichever team," Clarke said at the SCG. "The sooner we can get him back into the one dayers, the better for us."

Clarke is in charge of a 12-man squad as it attempts to draw the series with England, who retained the Ashes with their innings victory in Melbourne on Wednesday. Usman Khawaja has been included to make his debut at No. 3 while Doug Bollinger was recalled to replace Ryan Harris, who suffered a stress fracture in his left ankle at the MCG.

But the major focus is on how Clarke will deal with his switch from energetic lieutenant to the man who has to juggle his own game with all the extra commitments required to run a team. He has led Australia in 18 ODIs and another 18 Twenty20s and has usually enjoyed giving the captaincy back to Ponting.

In his dream Clarke would have taken the job in peak form, but he has experienced a poor campaign against England with 148 runs at 21.14 and only one half-century. Even that came with criticism after he tweeted an apology for not walking when he was dismissed late on the penultimate day in Adelaide.

"I make no bones about it, my form has not been good enough throughout this series," he said. "I've had a couple of innings where I've felt really good but I need to get out here and make sure I get some runs on the board, and that's my focus right now. I've had the chance to captain Australia in the Twenty20 form and a handful of one-dayers as well, and I don't think it's hurt my performance. Hopefully that's the same this week."

Clarke is a modern cricketer and his metrosexual tendencies and A-list activities have created lingering questions over his suitability for the leadership. His on-field moves will now be analysed intently as he hopes for a way out of such a dire period for Australia.

Ponting's fractured finger deteriorated during the fourth Test that finished with him failing to win the Ashes for a record third time. If the urn was still up for grabs he would have pushed to play but gave into medical advice.

"I'm devastated to tell you the truth, it was the news I was dreading," Ponting said after landing in Sydney. "During the game I didn't think I'd done too much more to it." When asked if he was considering retirement he said: "I'm not thinking about it at all."

Ponting, who scored only 113 runs in the first four games, could face surgery on his finger, but is expected to be fit to guide Australia in their push to win a fourth consecutive World Cup. He had an x-ray on the final day of the Melbourne defeat and it showed the fracture had moved during the match.

"What I need right at the moment is just as much time as I possibly can to let it heal and make sure that I'm 100% right for the start of the World Cup," he said. "That's really how the decision was made, so I've just got to do everything in my power over the next little bit to look after it as well as I can."

He will see a specialist again over the next day to decide on the best way forward. "Hopefully he will commence training in the later part of the Australian summer," Alex Kountouris, the team's physiotherapist, said. "He is expected to be fully fit for the World Cup."

Ponting's Test future is less clear as Australia's next five-day engagement is currently scheduled for Sri Lanka in August, although there is a talk of a series against Bangladesh after the World Cup. He is already 36 and Australia have realised during their poor Ashes performance that they have to start rebuilding through young players.

Australia squad Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, Michael Beer.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • husain on January 6, 2011, 19:20 GMT

    clarke has not got the leadership qualities like mark taylor or steve waugh and idealy australia should do what south africa did with graeme smith and india did with ms dhoni, make some one like cameron white the odi and t20 captain and mike hussey the test captain..

  • Chris on January 4, 2011, 11:28 GMT

    If Ponting isn't fit for Sydney, how was he fit for Melbourne??? He put his own interests ahead of the team and STILL batted at three. What is it about this selection panel? Poor old Nathan Hauritz must be wondering exactly what he has done to be continually insulted by the selectors, DESPITE taking wickets and making runs aplenty for NSW. Clarke should never have been picked, let alone made captain, and Hughes and Beer are laughable selections; Hughes because of his technical problems and poor Shield form, and Beer because he's not within a bull's roar of Hauritz's ability with ball OR bat. This is the team that SHOULD have taken the field in Sydney: Watson, Cosgrove, Khawaja, M.Hussey, D.Hussey, Smith (until Ponting returns at SIX!), Haddin (C), Hauritz, Johnson, Siddle, Bollinger, Hilfenhaus (12th). When Katich is fit again, he is owed the courtesy of restoration to the side, with Cosgrove or D. Hussey to miss out, depending on their productivity while in the side.

  • Matthew on January 2, 2011, 6:46 GMT

    seriously, what is wrong with some of the people commenting on here? They clearly have no knowledge of Australian cricketers. 1)White has an average batting record and doesn't bowl much at all any more 2)Brad Hodge has RETIRED FROM F/C CRICKET 3)Shaun Marsh has an ordinary f/c record 4)Symonds does't play f/c anymore 5)The only reason Vic has done so well the past 5 years is that all the NSW players were playing for Australia 6)THERE ARE NO SELECTORS FROM NSW!

  • L on January 1, 2011, 21:31 GMT

    Aussie selectors Have got it wrong. Hussey to open batting with Watson. He opened for WA before being selected down the order for Australia. He is inform, solid as rock. He will show his maturity here. Kuwaja at 3 for Ponting, untill his return. Hughes to move to 4, wait for the shine to go from the ball. He can score runs freely here and take the game away from the opposition by lifting the run rate. Clarke to move down the order to bat with tail and show his leaderships skills. Steven Waugh made this his own for over a decade. Haddin has shown new maturity with his batting this summer he has earned the right to move to 6. We need to persevere with Smith and let him cut his teeth,yes, he can bat , but my God he is a clone of Warne. Lets hope not, off the field. We desperately need a Leggie. Just hope he can get the turn a of McGill and skill Warne. If not Smith it Must be Hauritz, who must be now considered a batting all-rounder with 2 centuries for NSW this season.No other spin opti

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2010, 23:42 GMT

    I really wish Australia will get back their strength. Everyone knows about Australia -- they can fight back ...

  • Roshan on December 31, 2010, 21:08 GMT

    Down_Under- I think that winning is most important, and the Aussies should do anything to win at this stage. Nothing is better than good ol' Aussie sledging when they are at there best. The Waugh/Ponting era has been one of the most successful, and known as the golden age. Dont worry guys, the men in yellow will be back at the top, and once again a feared side in no time.

  • S on December 31, 2010, 13:43 GMT

    Neither Clarke nor Haddin deserve to lead this team to the new era. They both are very much like Ponting as far as sportsmanship and the on-field behaviour are concerened. While grooming the young team, we need to ensure we lead them away from Waugh/Ponting era. The amount of disgraced they have brught to Australian cricket is simply unacceptable. Winning at all cost is not what Aussie cricket should be all about. Bring back some descipline, work on their attitude and get the spirit of sportsmenship back in this Aussie cricket.. Where the likes of Mark Taylor have gone?

  • Mark on December 31, 2010, 11:47 GMT

    So, by the changes, If harris and ponting weren't injured it would be an unchanged team... Nice.

  • amit on December 31, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    R these selectors sleeping during this series or what? Why not these players get any cosideration from ACB AndrewSymonds(who's not retire and possibly the best No.6), Cameron White, Callum Ferguson & Shaun Marsh they have enough experience now and should get a call sooner than later.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2010, 11:15 GMT

    ricky ponting out of from the tea because of his bad perfonmance not fpr any enjury. it's a druma for replacing captaincy band.......................

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