Mitchell Marsh can be a future captain of Australia, according to the current leader Michael Clarke. Marsh is likely to make his Test debut against Pakistan in Dubai on Wednesday and potentially has a long international future ahead if he grabs his opportunities, given that the incumbent allrounder Shane Watson is now 33.
But it is not just as a top-six batsman and fifth bowler that Marsh can contribute to the Australia outfit, according to Clarke. Marsh captained Australia to an Under-19 World Cup triumph in 2010 and if Clarke's assessment is correct, he could join the likes of Steven Smith as candidates to take over the captaincy after Clarke has retired.
"I believe Mitchell Marsh can be a future captain of Australia," Clarke wrote in his News Ltd column on Tuesday. "That might sound like a big call for a bloke who only turned 23 on Monday and has yet to play a Test match. But I have toured with him quite a few times now and continue to be impressed with his talent, knowledge and game awareness.
"His cricketing maturity is at least five years ahead of the date of birth printed on his passport. I don't have any plans to give up the captaincy yet - there's plenty more cricket left in me - but I genuinely see Mitch as future leadership material. When he sets fields, you can see that he is thinking not from the bowler's perspective, but the batsman's.
"He is assessing conditions, the batsman's strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities to exploit the latter. And when he is batting, he is not one of those guys running around without a plan. He is thinking about how to construct an innings. I also love how much he cares about the team. If Mitch has a game in which he doesn't get among the runs or wickets, he always goes out of his way to congratulate those that have. He doesn't get lost in his own little world. He is all about the team."
A significant contributing factor to Marsh's cricketing nous is the amount of time he spent around elite cricket when he was a child. His father Geoff Marsh coached Australia and Zimbabwe during Marsh's youth and if he debuts, he and brother Shaun will become only the third combination of a father and two sons to have played Test cricket, after the Hadlees and the Amarnaths.
"He has been exposed to overseas conditions, players and theories about the game from a young age," Clarke wrote. "He's obviously got plenty of talent - he might just be the cleanest hitter of the ball for a bloke who can also bowl 130kph that I've seen - but his understanding of the game is well beyond his years.
"Assuming he's fit, Mitch is a big chance of earning his Test debut against Pakistan this week. Should that happen, you just know he'll be the kind of guy to treasure the baggy green. He has an extremely bright future."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale