Michael Clarke will give Australia a view of the future when he leads the team in the Twenty20 international against New Zealand on Tuesday. Clarke, who is tipped to be the next Test captain, will step in for Ricky Ponting, who will miss the Perth match to allow the younger players to be on show.
Clarke, 26, leap-frogged Adam Gilchrist and Michael Hussey - the move is sure to disappoint the local supporters - and he will be in charge of a squad including Adam Voges, Ashley Noffke and Shaun Tait. Gilchrist remained the vice-captain while Matthew Hayden was not picked.
"It's any young kid's dream to captain their country, I'm stoked," Clarke said at the SCG. Thoughts of being the new leader were the last things on Clarke's mind when he heard the chief selector Andrew Hilditch, nicknamed Digger, wanted to speak to him.
"When Digger gives you a call over the phone it's normally for bad news," Clarke said. "I thought 'please tell me I'm not going to get dropped'. It certainly was a shock to me, I was a little bit speechless."
Hilditch said the appointment was made "to enhance the leadership skills of Michael Clarke to assure the long history of strong leadership of Australian cricket is continued into the future". Hilditch also said the squad marked the start of preparations for the 2009 World Twenty20 in England. "It represents a clear indication that we will at all times be picking Twenty20 sides which will be specific to this form of the game," he said.
Voges, who made his ODI debut in February, came in as reward for his strong domestic form - he struck 180 in the current match in Hobart - while Noffke deserved his call after taking 24 Pura Cup wickets and scoring 490 runs. There was no spot for Ben Hilfenhaus, the out-of-form Tasmanian, but Tait was given a chance to continue his rehabilitation from a serious elbow problem.
Clarke's maturity since returning to the Test arena in 2006 impressed those around the team and he was Hussey's deputy during last season's Chappell-Hadlee Series until withdrawing with a hip injury. John Buchanan, the former coach, believes Clarke will be Australia's next Test leader, Ponting has said he was the "obvious choice" and there were even predictions before his debut that he would captain his country.
"This is a great opportunity, but there is no doubt Ricky is our leader and will be for a lot longer yet, but I'm certainly proud and honoured to be given this opportunity," Clarke said. "For me it's about trying to grab it with both hands and really enjoying every minute of it. I've spent a lot of time standing beside Ricky throughout my short career for Australia so I think I've learned a lot."
Clarke said he had consulted Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ian Chappell since coming into the Australian team. "Any young player would be silly not to." Next Tuesday it will be him giving the instructions.
Australia squad Adam Gilchrist (wk), Brad Hodge, Michael Clarke (capt), Michael Hussey, Andrew Symonds, Adam Voges, Brett Lee, Ashley Noffke, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait.