Steve Smith, the boy-faced batsman whose talent and temperament saw him earmarked as a future leader almost from the time he cemented a place in the national team, has been confirmed as Australia's 45th Test cricket captain.
Smith's appointment was recommended by the National Selection Panel last night in the wake of Michael Clarke's potentially long-term hamstring injury and was formally ratified by the Cricket Australia Board.
While Clarke remains captain and Smith has been officially installed as the Test team’s new vice-captain, the injury that has cast doubt over Clarke’s involvement for the remainder of the summer means the new deputy begins his tenure as stand-in skipper.
Smith, aged 25 years and 195 days, becomes Australia's youngest Test captain since Kim Hughes took over the leadership in March 1979 at 25 years and 57 days, and the third-youngest in Australian cricket history behind Ian Craig who was just 22 when he took over the job in 1958.
The assured and ever-improving batsman will lead his team into the remaining three Commonwealth Bank Tests against India this summer with Brad Haddin, the man many tipped would take over the captaincy when Clarke was injured, as his deputy.
It is understood that Haddin, who oversaw Australia's charge to victory in Clarke's absence during the final hours of the first Test in Adelaide on Saturday, was favoured to assume the leadership until the severity of Clarke's injury became apparent.
As the 37 year-old wicketkeeper presciently noted when speculation swirled around Clarke's fitness in the days before Phillip Hughes's death altered the cricket landscape, he was viewed as an ideal short-term replacement until Clarke was deemed fit enough to resume.
"I'm obviously not a long-term solution to be Australian captain with the age I am, but I'm happy to do it for a couple of games," Haddin said at the time.
But Chair of the NSP Rod Marsh confirmed today that the nature of Clarke's injury and the uncertainty over when – even if, as Clarke acknowledged on the weekend – he returns to the playing field meant the circumstances were right to install a captain with long-term leadership potential.
"These are difficult circumstances given Michael's injury and the fact that we don't know how long he will be out of the game," Marsh said.
"What we do know is that it won't be an overnight fix so after a lot of thought we have taken the opportunity to appoint an emerging young leader as captain until such time as Michael regains fitness and returns to the side.
"We congratulate Steve on the wonderful honour of leading his country.
Smith led the NSW Blues to last season's Bupa Sheffield Shield title // Getty Images
"On Wednesday he will become Australia's 45th Test captain and at the age of 25 will become one of our youngest leaders.
"He is an exceptional young man who is highly regarded by the National Selection Panel not only for his fine performances with the bat but also his maturity and clear leadership potential.
"Brad Haddin has done an exceptional job as vice-captain since assuming the role last year and will provide strong support to Steve just as he has done for Michael.
"There was a strong argument for Brad to assume the captaincy until Michael returns, but given we don't know how long that will be, we felt the time was right to take a longer-term view and give a young player this chance."
CA Chairman Wally Edwards said today the Board had no hesitation in ratifying the NSP's recommendation for Test captain
"The Board fully endorsed the recommendation put forward by the selectors," Edwards said.
"Steve is an impressive young leader who deserves high praise for his temperament and on-field performances to date.
"We believe he will do an excellent job when given the chance to captain his country against India."
The appointment caps a remarkable rise for Smith who, having made his Test debut shortly after his 21st birthday in 2010 as a leg spin bowler and lower-order batsman, found himself out of the team as recently as two years ago.
Having worked hard to tighten his batting technique and given a taste of captaincy with the Sydney Sixers KFC T20 Big Bash League franchise, Smith returned to the Test team during Australia's ill-fated tour of India last year when he showed great skill and maturity batting in difficult conditions.
Having reached his first Test century in the subsequent Ashes series in England – a milestone achieved in style with a six off Jonathan Trott's bowling – Smith has since established himself as a reliable and prolific middle-order batsman with five centuries in his past 12 Tests.
Steve Smith sets the field for NSW during last summer's Bupa Sheffield Shield final // Getty Images
He has also indicated he would relish the opportunity to bat further up the order and – given the batting order is a captain's prerogative – he now has the chance to forge a path as the long-term number three batsman Australia has craved since Clarke's captaincy predecessor, Ricky Ponting, retired.
In addition to his T20 captaincy experience, Smith has led New South Wales in two games in the Bupa Sheffield Shield, the most recent being last year's Shield final where his second innings century helped the Blues clinch the title.
As NSW captain, he batted himself at number three.
But unlike Australia's most recent Test captains Clarke, Ponting, Steve Waugh, and even fill-in appointments Shane Watson and Adam Gilchrist, Smith has no international captaincy experience in any form of the game.
That will change on Wednesday when he leads the Test XI on to the Gabba in Brisbane for the second Test against India.