Michael Clarke has been named as Australia's new vice-captain following the retirement of Adam Gilchrist. Clarke, who turns 27 on Wednesday, was handed the role for the upcoming Test and ODI tours of the West Indies and his appointment is a strong indication he will be groomed to eventually take over the top job from Ricky Ponting.
Clarke was given captaincy experience in Australia's two Twenty20 internationals this season, against New Zealand and India, and the team comfortably won both games. The promotion completes an outstanding 18 months for Clarke, who was initially overlooked for the first Ashes Test in 2006-07 until an injury to Shane Watson opened up a middle-order vacancy.
It also capped off an exciting few days after Clarke proposed to his model girlfriend Lara Bingle in the United States. "This will be a week I remember for the rest of my life,'' Clarke told the Daily Telegraph. "I only arrived home on Monday and had a fantastic holiday where I had some special times in New York, where we were engaged.
"And now I've had this news - I've been given the chance to become vice-captain of Australia, which is fantastic and something I'm really looking forward to. I think all young players dream of playing for Australia and every kid aspires to one day becoming vice-captain or captain - I certainly did.''
The chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, said it was an easy decision to make Clarke the deputy to Ponting. "With Adam Gilchrist retiring after a stellar Australian career we have identified the need to look towards the future," Hilditch said.
"While we had some very strong candidates within the current team, including those of the calibre of Michael Hussey, we had no hesitation in recommending Michael Clarke for the position. We were thrilled with his performances as captain during the two Twenty20 international games this summer and believe he has outstanding leadership credentials."
In addition to replacing Gilchrist as vice-captain, Clarke is also one of several options who could be considered as Matthew Hayden's new opening partner in one-day internationals. However, James Hopes was tested in the role during the CB Series and might be the team's initial preference, while the Western Australia top-order batsman Shaun Marsh could also be considered having been named for his first ODI tour.