20th June, India v South Africa, 09:30 GMT
Australia go into the second ODI against New Zealand in desperate need of a victory having lost their recent One Day series 4-1 against South Africa, and the world champions lost out by two runs to the Black Caps at the weekend in the first ODI,
Ricky Ponting has been rested for Australia’s next two ODIs, which means that Michael Clarke has been enlisted with the job leading his country as they try to get back to winning ways.
Even before Clarke played for Australia, he was tipped by many to one day captain Australia.
Born in New South Wales in 1981, from an early age he showed potential and talent as a cricketer, and he duly made his first-class debut as an 18 year old in 2000.
After some impressive performances for New South Wales Clarke made his ODI debut against England in January 2003, and it did not take long for Clarke to become a permanent fixture in Australia’s ODI setup but because of the strength and depth in Australia’s batting line up Clarke had to wait until the end of 2004 to make his Test debut.
When Clarke did finally make his Test debut against India in Bangalore, he announced himself in grand style, scoring a majestic 151 to help Australia win that Test.
As well as being a talented middle-order batsman, Clarke is also an exceptional fielder and a useful left-arm slow bowler, and indeed in his first Test series in India Clarke claimed figures of six for nine in the Mumbai game.
Having had such a dream start to his Test career, and being part of an Australian team that was successful in India for the first time in over 30 years, much was expected of Clarke when Australia went to England in 2005 for the highly anticipated Ashes contest. Clarke scored 91 in the first Test at Lords to help Australia to a convincing victory; his form did dip somewhat after that but he was still one of Australia’s best batsmen on that tour and he made another half-century in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge.
As a team Australia were keen to atone for their disappointing 2005 Ashes campaign and they did just this, beating England 5-0 in the return series in Australia in 2006-7. Clarke was exceptional in that series scoring two magnificent centuries.
The inaugural IPL tournament was last year and Clarke was expected to be one of the star players, however due to the illness of his fiancée's father he withdrew from the competition.
The tragic death of his fiancé's father-in-law shortly afterwards meant he alsowithdraw from the start of the tour of the Caribbean, however when he did join up with the Australian team for the second Test he smashed a century in the second Test and helped Australia to a successful Test and ODI campaign.
'Pup' as Clarke is affectionately known by team mates and fans alike, has an incredible record as skipper. He has so far led Australia in five ODIS and two Twenty20 encounters, and so far Australia have won every game when Clarke has been at the helm.
At this time of need the Australian public and Cricket Australia will be hoping that in tomorrow’s crucial game against New Zealand, Clarke can continue to work his magic while maintaining his excellent form (he was the top scorer in Australia’s recent Test series defeat to South Africa). To many, these next two ODIs may just seem like any other game but in reality if everything comes together and Clarke’s winning run continues this could yet be the beginning of a new era.
© Cricket World 2009