With Punter poleaxed by his problematic pinky, Michael "Pup" Clarke will be stepping up to the Test skippering plate for the first time at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday morning. In awful form himself and apparently only backed by a meagre 15% of the Australian public, it's not quite the glorious accession many have long hoped would follow Ponting's departure, regardless of whether this is just an armband armistice or a permanent takeover.
Clarke's conquering poise was first shown in a 151 not out on debut in Bangalore in 2004 - an innings that paved the way for Australia's victory in that First Test and their first series win in India for 35 years. His somewhat outré public persona and Lara-kin travails notwithstanding, it's fair to say he's been spoken of as a potential F.A.C. ever since that innings right up until he led Oz for the first time in a 2007 T20I, a role he retains and in which he has only lost four times....although they have been the last four. He's captained the One Day side on and off 18 times in Ponting's intermittent absences since 2008 and victoriously so in 13 of those matches, scoring two tons along the way.
Perhaps the most telling of these games, however, was November's MCG ODI against Sri Lanka, the Aussie's sixth out of seven straight defeats in the run-up to the Ashes. Not only was it a game where Xavier Docherty took four wickets and looked quite nifty - thus nudging him further towards his ill-fated Test appearances - but also one in which Clarke was powerless to stop the Sri Lankans reaching their target of 240 although they'd been reduced to 107-8 in the 26th over. It's rare you could say that a side romped home to a one wicket victory, but this is exactly what Malinga, Matthews and Murali did that day, leaving Clarke haplessly shuffling his icy deckchairs rather than bowlers. It was a freak match, natch, but one that didn't reflect too kindly on Pup's crisis management.
Overall, however, he's won 25 of his 36 games as an international skipper, despite needing to do a little work on his skills at the toss (14 out of 36 won). England beware, though, if he does call correctly. His side has gone on to win in 10 of those 14 matches so Clarke will be hoping his spinning fingers emulate their 2008 SCG magic when his orthodox left-arm winkled out three Indian batsmen in the penultimate over of the final day to secure a famous win...