Haddin steps in to lead, gives Punter and Clarke a rest

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Sydney, Feb.15 (ANI): Australian wicketkeeper batsman Brad Haddin will lead the national team for the first time today in the absence of Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

With the squad leaving for South Africa on Monday, the Australian selectors have told Ponting to take a break, while his deputy Clarke is recovering from an injury to his back.

"It's probably come about in the same way that me opening the batting has come about - with blokes being rested or injured," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Haddin as saying on Saturday.

The wicketkeeper-batsman has had a turbulent and thrilling first full season in the team, marked by fluctuating form and, recently, a controversy over a dismissal in which it appeared he had removed the bails with his gloves.

Nevertheless, the 31-year-old appeared relaxed yesterday after being told by selector Andrew Hilditch: "You're it."

"I was pretty excited [when I found out] - a little bit nervous - but now it's sunk in, I'm really looking forward to it," Haddin said.

Despite his joy at being named captain for today's match, Haddin - who has experience leading NSW - said being the national team captain was not one of his goals.

"I'll enjoy this occasion and do it as a one-off, but to do it on a full-time basis, it's quite tough for a wicketkeeper to be captain full-time," he said.

Meanwhile, Ponting expects Clarke to be fit for the first tour match in Johannesburg despite the Australian vice-captain having been ruled out of both Friday's and today's games with persistent back trouble.

Ponting, who himself has struggled with back injuries, said Clarke simply needed rest. (ANI)

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