Clarke ready to bloom at Rose Bowl

County Championship: Australia's latest wonder-bat happy at the Hampshire finishing school

Shane Warne comes into the pavilion at the Rose Bowl, cap on, collar up, wrap-around sunglasses, as if he might be hiding something. Himself perhaps. Michael Clarke, who has nothing to hide, arrives wearing a baseball cap which covers an unruly mop of blond hair. He was 23 earlier this month; the complexion is unblemished by life. Everything is upfront, right down to the diamantine stud in the left ear.

Michael Clarke of New South Wales, Australia's one-day team and Hampshire, is said by shrewd judges Down Under - like our John Benaud - to be the best young cricketer in the world. An attacking right-handed batsman and a slow left-arm bowler, he has arrived at the Rose Bowl as part of his further education.

International commitments with Australia's one-day team meant he played only three four-day Pura Cup games last season. He is in England to play more long cricket. "I'm going to try to bat for as long as I can," he announces. Some Second Division bowlers will grow tired of his baby face this summer.

Strong Australian links guided him towards Hampshire. The physio, Patrick Farhart, is a colleague at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and Clarke got to know Warne a little on the recent tour of Sri Lanka, where - apart from 5 for 35 at Dambulla - he had his first modest one-day series. He was impressed by Murali's turn, but insists that Warne is the greatest bowler in the world: "One of the nicest guys I've ever met," he says. And he likes what he has seen in England. The facilities get 10 out of 10 and he greets his team-mates as they arrive for practice as though they are old mates.

They would have admired the 75 against Durham last week when the ball was seaming; and forgotten the second-innings duck. Hampshire won, after all.

Apart from 15 days with Australia's one-day squad in Zimbabwe, Clarke ought to be an ornament at Hampshire this summer. Any doubts about the tour? "It's not up to me to judge," he says. His international cricket has been impressive so far (658 runs at 38.70 and 17 wickets at 29.17 in 25 one-day internationals), but we are still talking to an uncomplicated young man who decided he wanted to be a professional cricketer when he was 13 and is disinclined to let anything to do with real life get in the way.

Clarke was born in Liverpool in southern NSW, and, like many talented Australian cricketers, the game is in the blood. His father was an accomplished grade cricketer, who played rugby league in the winter. Michael joined a club when he was seven and, since he went to state school where opportunities were limited, he grew up in club cricket, playing for state teams from the age of 12. He can recall the day when he was 13 when he decided he definitely wanted to be a professional.

He left school at 17 and was signed by NSW 18 months later. In a brief first-class career, spanning 68 innings, he already has eight hundreds and 10 fifties.

"It's been my life," he says. "This is what I wanted to be." The remarkable promise has already been recognised by the biggest sporting sponsorship deal in Australian cricket history. Dunlop-Slazenger are paying him A$1.25 million (£516,000) to use their equipment for the next three years. He feels flattered. So he ought.

The deal was negotiated by Clarke's manager, Neil D'Costa, a family friend whom he has known since he was seven. D'Costa was his coach when he was a schoolboy and his employer in a leisure centre when he quit school. Now they share a house in Sydney and D'Costa still acts as coach as well as manager. "He's my idol. The greatest person I've ever met," says Clarke.

Who comes next? He looks up to Ricky Ponting, for having recovered so completely from being dropped early in his Test career. He loves Michael Slater's energy, and the Waughs of course, Steve and Mark. But at 23, you feel that Clarke is already his own man, charting his course rather than following others. That, though, is as far as individuality goes. He is a conventional young Australian who thinks it is the greatest country in the world. "I love my cars. Love going to the beach. I love my clothes, shopping." He reads sports education books and cricket biographies.

There are no surprises, and it would be a real surprise if there were any secrets. He trains hard, works hard in the nets and when he gets to the middle he plays the game his way and lets things happen, but he is already confident that the preparation has gone right. Things normally happen fast. He is an aggressive batsman who backs his own ability. "I think I'm a positive person in general," says Michael Clarke.

England have still to discover this phenomenon. But they will.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam