After captain Clarke's record-breaking year, focus quickly shifts towards India and the old enemy

The highlight

The year was only five days old but Michael Clarke had already stamped his mark on 2012. When the Australian captain strode to the wicket midway through the final session on the first day of the Sydney Test, his team was under pressure from an Indian team that had the sniff of blood. By the time Clarke walked up the steps through the famous SCG pavilion two days later he had not only given his side control of the Test, and the series, but also broken the spirit of M.S. Dhoni's men. For 10 hours and nine minutes, Clarke gave the Indian attack a taste of what it would have been like bowling to Don Bradman. Upon reaching 329, five shy of Bradman's 334 but well clear of the venue's previous best of 287 set by England's Tip Foster in 1903, he put the Indians out of their misery by declaring. It was fitting Clarke should set the new mark in the SCG's 100th Test. The ovation he received was in contrast to the hoots a year earlier when he led Australia for the first time in the final Test of a horror Ashes campaign.

The lowlight

It seemed fanciful Australia could return to the top of world cricket two years after the Ashes debacle of 2010-11 - and so it proved. After two honourable draws against South Africa, hopes were high Australia could snatch the No.1 world ranking by toppling the Proteas in Perth. Instead they were given a reminder just how far they still have to go. Their batting woes, particularly when Clarke does not make a century, were highlighted by collapses in each innings, and Hashim Amla and A.B. de Villiers made Australia pay for their inability to keep their best bowlers on the park. The defeat ensured Ricky Ponting would not bow out of international cricket a winner but the former captain was given an emotional send-off by friend and foe alike. Ponting had hoped to bat on until next year's Ashes series but after failing to transfer his strong form from the Sheffield Shield into the Test arena he decided his days in the baggy green were over.

The superstar

Clarke is not only the best batsman in Australia, he could well be the best in the world after his stunning 2012. With 1595 runs for the calendar year, he surpassed Ponting's previous Australian record of 1544, set in 2005. The 31-year-old Clarke, who became the first batsman in Test history to make four double centuries in a calendar year, has also stamped his mark on the team with his leadership. Clarke has shown himself to be an innovative captain who seldom lets a game stagnate and is not afraid to try the unorthodox in order to make a breakthrough.

The issue

It's just as well Australia have built up an impressive stockpile of quicks. Cricket Australia's fast-bowler rotation policy is causing consternation in the ranks and sparking major debate around the country about how to best manage its pacemen. The old-timers say today's fast bowlers need more bowling; CA says they are bowling too much. Australia's inability to field anything resembling their first-choice attack cruelled their bid to regain the No.1 world ranking, and a repeat threatens to undermine twin Ashes campaigns. Off the field, the modest start to season two of the Big Bash League is causing a headache for the game's administrators, who have banked on the city-based Twenty20 competition to captivate the sport's next generation of fans.

What next?

This summer is mere small fry when compared to what's in store in 2013 for Australia. First up, Clarke's team will head to the subcontinent for a potentially gruelling four-Test series against India. Woeful a year ago, India will give Australia a tougher run at home, despite recently being beaten by England. Then it's off to England for the Champions Trophy and the first of two Ashes series in six months. The Australians have not claimed Ashes victory away since 2001, and are not fancied to break the drought next year either. Failure will be forgiven if Australia can claim back the urn next summer but the blowtorch will be on CA if the team is beaten at home and abroad.

The quote

''This is where it all started, and that's where it's going to finish.'' - Ricky Ponting pulls stumps on his Test career in Perth, where he made his debut 17 years earlier.

The tweet

''Such a relief to find out that no scalpel is going near the mashed potatoes! but i still have elephantitis'' - Queensland batsman Chris Lynn tells his Twitter followers he will not need surgery after he was struck in the testicles while batting.

This story After captain Clarke's record-breaking year, focus quickly shifts towards India and the old enemy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.