Michael Clarke already boasts a possibly unique claim to fame in Australian cricketing folklore: he was anointed as his country’s next captain before he'd played a single Test.
When Michael Clarke made his debut and a thrilling 151 against India at Bangalore his future looked even brighter than the yellow motorbike he received as Man of the Match.
The amazing ride continued with another stunning century on his home welcome at the Gabba, and his first Test season ended with the Allan Border Medal.
A ravishing shotmaker with an unshakeable temperament, Michael Clarke does not so much take guard as take off. His arrival is typically the cue for a string of wristy, audacious flashes through the offside. Crowds warm to his innocent exuberance, to the buzz and energy and daredevil edge he brings to the crease. All the while he radiates a pointy-elbowed elegance reminiscent of a young Greg Chappell or Mark Waugh, who, like Michael, waited long and uncomplainingly for a Test opening and then marked the occasion with a century.
Unlike Chappell and Waugh, who learned the ropes in domestic and county cricket, Michael Clarke cut his teeth in Australia’s one-day side. His impact in pyjamas was startling: he racked up 208 runs in four games before he was finally dismissed, and now averages a tick over 46 at a strike rate hovering around 90.
His bouncy fielding adds to his run-value, while his left-arm tweakers cajole nearly a wicket a game, and dropped six surprised Indians in the second innings at Mumbai.
A cricket nut since he was in nappies, Michael Clarke honed his technique against the bowling machine at his dad’s indoor centre. He is proudly patriotic too, wearing an Australian flag on the back of his bat, 'On captaining Australia, I’d love to,' he commented early in 2004. 'It’s another goal and something I’ll have to work hard for.' He worked hard for his first Test hundred, but made it look stunningly easy.
In 2005, Micheal Clarke was awarded the Allan Border Medal for his achievements.