Michael Clarke had been earmarked for captaincy almost from the time that he made his debut for Australia; and when he occasionally took over from Ricky Ponting when he was his vice-captain, his acumen for the job was for all to see.
He is the perfect man for the job at a time when Australia is striving to reclaim its top ranking in Tests. Clarke has come into his own after taking over the captaincy full-time from Ponting a year back. He is also not averse to taking and backing the tough decisions as the Australian captain along with the coach is now part of the selection panel following the Don Argus review.
Clarke's captaincy record in the last year is impressive to say the least - Australia have won nine, lost two and drawn three of the 14 Tests he has been in charge. The wins have included a 4-0 whitewash of India at home as well as an inspired victory against South Africa at Johannesburg days after Australia was bundled out for a mere 47 in Cape Town; while the losses have included that Cape Town Test and a shock defeat to New Zealand at Hobart in December 2011. These results have seen Clarke admit that though the intention is to reclaim the top ranking, his team still has a fair way to go and needs to be more consistent. "Cape Town showed us how quickly things can change for the worse and then to be able to pull off a win in Jo'burg - and we're talking about a very strong Test team in their own back yard - so to be able to level that series was a great learning curve for us," Clarke said after Australia's recent Test series win in the Caribbean, adding "we continue to learn, especially, from those two games, Cape Town and Hobart".
Talking about the Test series in the Caribbean, that's where Clarke came of age as a captain as his unique captaincy style and approach came to the fore in the first two matches of the three-Test series, where he made brave declarations in an effort to inject new life and excitement at Barbados and Port of Spain. At a time when most international captains adopt the safe route in Tests, Clarke's approach is a refreshing one; and his contemporaries will do well to take a leaf out of the Australian skipper's book.
Clarke has admitted that sometimes his ploy of making brave declarations could backfire, but despite that knowledge, he is still willing to adopt the aggressive route. "At times with my declaration, when there is a chance for winning, you've got to have a go at it. There's going to be times that it might backfire and we might lose every now and then. But I enjoy the brand of cricket that we're playing at the moment," Clarke said of his attitude as captain.
In the first Test against West Indies at Barbados, Clarke took the call to declare Australia's first innings when they were still 43 runs behind the hosts; but then his bowlers responded exceedingly well to their captain's challenge before the tourists took a 1-0 lead in the series despite losing wickets towards the end in fading light. Clarke would have questioned his decision when his second sporting declaration of the series at Port of Spain set West Indies a target of 215 in 61 overs, but just when it appeared that Test would also have an exciting finish, a torrential downpour played spoilsport and forced the match to end in a stalemate.
Clarke admitted he was nervous at Port of Spain, especially when his counterpart Darren Sammy promoted himself to No. 3 and took the attack to the Australian bowlers as West Indies attempted to chase down the target. Clarke, however, reiterated his captaincy style after that match when he said, "My goal my whole career has been to help the Australian team win as many games as possible and I guess now that I am captain I have the opportunity to show that." He didn't have to make any declarations in the third Test at Dominica which Australia won by 75 runs to take the series 2-0; but if there was the need to, Clarke would have undoubtedly made another of his brave calls.
There are bigger challenges still to come for Clarke, none more so than the back-to-back Ashes campaigns against England in 2013-14. But, despite the pressure that comes with the Australian captaincy and that of reclaiming and retaining the famous urn; here's hoping that Clarke stays true to his brand of captaincy for the rest of his tenure because such brave decisions will go a long way in not only making Test cricket more exciting but will also get the best out of Australia's cricketers because they know their skipper is not averse to taking risks should the need arise.