live Infotainment Factory: Why Smith will make bizarre captaincy comeback

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Saturday, 7 September 2019

Why Smith will make bizarre captaincy comeback


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Steve Smith is on the brink of regaining the Australian captaincy by default, with no other viable options to succeed Tim Paine, according to former Aussie skipper Ian Chappell.

While Smith has been phenomenal during this Ashes series, Usman Khawaja has been dropped and Travis Head has endured a lean trot. The left-handed batsmen have been touted as potential captains but have not cemented their spot in the team.

Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have served as vice-captains, but fast-bowlers are rarely elevated to captain. Paine has enjoyed a strong fourth Test but at 34, and with Alex Carey waiting in the wings, is coming towards the end.

Smith, banned from leadership positions for two years after 'Sandpapergate', is eligible to regain the Australian captaincy in March next year.

"I think the problem for Australia will be there's no one else I can see to captain that side," Chappell said of Smith on Sports Sunday.

"Travis Head captains his state side, but Travis Head hasn't established himself as an Australian player. Khawaja also captains Queensland from time to time but again, he's far from established.

"I would say, when Tim Paine decides to retire, at this stage there's no other obvious candidate."

Smith has actively assisted Paine with his captaincy during this Ashes series and his batting has been otherworldly.

The 30-year-old right-hander has made 671 runs from just five innings, averaging 134.20. He has made three centuries, including a first-innings 211 at Old Trafford, and his lowest score is his second-innings 82 in Manchester.

The next-best Australian batsman, second Test replacement Marnus Labuschagne, has made 291 runs for the series at 58.20. Then comes Matthew Wade, the only other century-maker, with 201 runs at 25.12. It's been Smith first, daylight second.

"They're both flawed teams, but England are far more flawed than Australia. Smith and a potent attack have been the big difference," Chappell said.

Smith's rise to batting supremacy coincided with his elevation to the Australian captaincy; however, he has only looked more dominant without the burden of leadership. His Test average is now 64.81 and his average batting in the first innings is an absurd 93.64.

The desire to see him continue such historic form may be the only argument against him regaining the captaincy. Moral concerns have gradually faded after the Cape Town ball tampering scandal.

Australian ODI skipper Aaron Finch said recently that Smith seemed to have a "weight off" his shoulders without the captaincy.

"He seemed to relax a lot more," Finch told Triple M.

"The 12 months (suspension), as unfortunate as it was, it was probably little bit of a relief that he wasn't captaining the side every day.

"He seemed to free up and just be really comfortable with himself. It was probably a little different to when he was captain.

"He always felt like everyone was judging him and everything he did, ... and he couldn't be too close with some kinds of players."

Another former Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, said that he would support Smith returning as skipper. Ponting has spent time with the Australian team during the Ashes.

"I haven't really thought about, but personally I wouldn't have any problem with it at all," Ponting told cricket.com.au last month.

"If the hierarchy at Cricket Australia have an issue with him ever being captain again, they would have given him a life ban, wouldn't they? By banning him for just an extra 12 months, they think it's OK for him to come back. So if the authorities think it's OK, I'm happy with it as well."

Chappell said that Smith's recent batting form was extraordinary - and that it had been aided by inept captaincy from England's Joe Root.

"I don't remember Test batting being as easy as he makes it look. It's ridiculous how easy he makes it look," Chappell said.

"I think he's had 12 innings when Joe Root's the opposing captain; 1,350 runs.

"Joe is behind the game. If I heard Richie Benaud say it once, I heard him say it 100 times: you've got to be two overs ahead of the game as a captain.

"Joe's behind the game. There are times when he hasn't got much of a feel for the game, but he also wants to change tactics very quickly. Sometimes for a bowler, in the same over.

"He's got (Craig) Overton bouncing Smith and then when Paine gets on strike, he's bowling line and length. That's a hard thing for an experienced bowler to do, but to ask (the inexperienced) Overton to do it ... and he's done that a few times. He did it in Australia.

"It smacks of not having a great feel for the captaincy."

Steve Smith is on the brink of regaining the Australian captaincy by default, with no other viable options to succeed Tim Paine, according to former Aussie skipper Ian Chappell.

While Smith has been phenomenal during this Ashes series, Usman Khawaja has been dropped and Travis Head has endured a lean trot. The left-handed batsmen have been touted as potential captains but have not cemented their spot in the team.

Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have served as vice-captains, but fast-bowlers are rarely elevated to captain. Paine has enjoyed a strong fourth Test but at 34, and with Alex Carey waiting in the wings, is coming towards the end.

Smith, banned from leadership positions for two years after 'Sandpapergate', is eligible to regain the Australian captaincy in March next year.

"I think the problem for Australia will be there's no one else I can see to captain that side," Chappell said of Smith on Sports Sunday.

"Travis Head captains his state side, but Travis Head hasn't established himself as an Australian player. Khawaja also captains Queensland from time to time but again, he's far from established.

"I would say, when Tim Paine decides to retire, at this stage there's no other obvious candidate."

Smith has actively assisted Paine with his captaincy during this Ashes series and his batting has been otherworldly.

The 30-year-old right-hander has made 671 runs from just five innings, averaging 134.20. He has made three centuries, including a first-innings 211 at Old Trafford, and his lowest score is his second-innings 82 in Manchester.

The next-best Australian batsman, second Test replacement Marnus Labuschagne, has made 291 runs for the series at 58.20. Then comes Matthew Wade, the only other century-maker, with 201 runs at 25.12. It's been Smith first, daylight second.

"They're both flawed teams, but England are far more flawed than Australia. Smith and a potent attack have been the big difference," Chappell said.

Smith's rise to batting supremacy coincided with his elevation to the Australian captaincy; however, he has only looked more dominant without the burden of leadership. His Test average is now 64.81 and his average batting in the first innings is an absurd 93.64.

The desire to see him continue such historic form may be the only argument against him regaining the captaincy. Moral concerns have gradually faded after the Cape Town ball tampering scandal.

Australian ODI skipper Aaron Finch said recently that Smith seemed to have a "weight off" his shoulders without the captaincy.

"He seemed to relax a lot more," Finch told Triple M.

"The 12 months (suspension), as unfortunate as it was, it was probably little bit of a relief that he wasn't captaining the side every day.

"He seemed to free up and just be really comfortable with himself. It was probably a little different to when he was captain.

"He always felt like everyone was judging him and everything he did, ... and he couldn't be too close with some kinds of players."

Another former Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, said that he would support Smith returning as skipper. Ponting has spent time with the Australian team during the Ashes.

"I haven't really thought about, but personally I wouldn't have any problem with it at all," Ponting told cricket.com.au last month.

"If the hierarchy at Cricket Australia have an issue with him ever being captain again, they would have given him a life ban, wouldn't they? By banning him for just an extra 12 months, they think it's OK for him to come back. So if the authorities think it's OK, I'm happy with it as well."

Chappell said that Smith's recent batting form was extraordinary - and that it had been aided by inept captaincy from England's Joe Root.

"I don't remember Test batting being as easy as he makes it look. It's ridiculous how easy he makes it look," Chappell said.

"I think he's had 12 innings when Joe Root's the opposing captain; 1,350 runs.

"Joe is behind the game. If I heard Richie Benaud say it once, I heard him say it 100 times: you've got to be two overs ahead of the game as a captain.

"Joe's behind the game. There are times when he hasn't got much of a feel for the game, but he also wants to change tactics very quickly. Sometimes for a bowler, in the same over.

"He's got (Craig) Overton bouncing Smith and then when Paine gets on strike, he's bowling line and length. That's a hard thing for an experienced bowler to do, but to ask (the inexperienced) Overton to do it ... and he's done that a few times. He did it in Australia.

"It smacks of not having a great feel for the captaincy."

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