Michael Clarke has his eye on the main prize. Photo: Getty Images
There is something about Perth, and not just the searing heat nor time difference. A year ago it was the site of Ricky Ponting's retirement bombshell, and subsequently his final Test.
This time around it is not only Michael Clarke's 100th Test, but an opportunity for Australia to do what even a few weeks ago seemed fanciful – win the Ashes. It is a shame, then, given there has lately been never a dull moment in the west, that the WACA Ground will go without a Test next summer.
Clarke is eager to have the attention not on his milestone but rather on his team's tilt at glory here. That may be easier said than done, particularly before the match begins on Friday.
There are 11 other Australians, all living, to have reached the 100-Test mark before and at least a handful of them – Justin Langer, Mark Taylor, Allan Border, Glenn McGrath and Ian Healy – are in Perth to take part in the festivities around Clarke's achievement.
They will all be presented with commemorative caps for past deeds, as will the newest member of the exclusive club.
Then it will be down to business for Clarke, who is more intent on celebrating come next Tuesday rather than on day one.
"That's why it's most special for me. The fact that we have a chance to win the Ashes,’’ he said on Thursday.
‘‘It’s fantastic that I’ve been able to play 99 Test matches for my country. It’s something I’m certainly proud of.‘‘I’ll have my family coming, which is extra special. [But] with regards to being your 100th Test, it’s not a focus for me at all. There’s enough other reasons as to why this Test match is so special to me and this team.’’
Clarke will be joined in Perth by the same family group, including parents Les and Debbie, who watched him make 151 on debut in Bangalore in 2004, except for his late grandmother.
He took a rare opportunity for reflection on Test eve, admitting some regrets amid an increasingly magnificent career, chiefly taking on the role as a selector. He resigned from that extra responsibility before Australia’s tour of England in the southern winter.
‘‘I’m sure there’s plenty of things I would have done differently,’’ Clarke said. ‘‘Standing down from being a selector, my main reason for that was to commit that time to the players, whether it be at training or outside of cricket, rather than committing that time to the selectors.
‘‘I didn’t think I could do both to the best of my ability. That’s one decision I certainly don’t regret. I think it’s been the best thing for my game.’’
Like Clarke, England’s captain Alastair Cook will also be recognised for notching his century of Tests in Perth. The England team held a private reception for Cook at their hotel on Thursday and before play he will receive a commemorative solid silver cap from England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke, as Kevin Pietersen did before he played his 100th Test at the Gabba in Brisbane last month.
The animosity between the teams this summer was also put on hold momentarily on Thursday as Clarke paid tribute to his opposite number.‘‘He deserves a lot of credit for the success he’s had over a long period of time for England,’’ Clarke said of Cook. ‘‘I’m pretty sure he’s scored the most Test hundreds for England of all time and his record is something he definitely should be proud of.
‘‘He’s a wonderful guy. I really enjoy playing against him.’’