Post the Michael Clarke era, Steve Smith took over the mantle in Test cricket and went on to lead Australia for a total of 34 Tests. He won 18 out of these games and did a fair job. However, some unfortunate incidents in South Africa in 2018 resulted in his ban midway through the series. With David Warner also facing the ban, Australia was forced to make Tim Paine the skipper of the side.
Ever since he has taken over the leadership, the wicket-keeper batsman has failed to lead the side to glory. His side lost to Pakistan in the UAE. Then, after over seven decades, Australia lost a Test series to India while playing at home. Paine tasted his first success as the leader against a weakened Sri Lanka team. Currently, the ongoing Ashes series is also on the line and all this while, the present skipper has made some grave mistakes at times.
Some of the games slipped out of Australia’s hands right in front of his eyes and he couldn’t really do much in these pressure situations. Moreover, in the 21 innings where he batted under his own leadership, Tim Paine has only scored 436 runs at an average of about 23. Thus, it looks quite inevitable that the selectors look for someone beyond him to take up the leadership next. In such a scenario, there are three or four options Australia can explore.
Test captain alternatives Australia can look at:
1. Steve Smith
Steve Smith celebrates his century in Birmingham. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Apart from the ongoing Ashes series, Australia will only play another five Test matches until early November 2020. While two games will be against Pakistan, the remaining three will be played against New Zealand. As per the current schedule, they wouldn’t play red-ball cricket for about ten months starting from January 2020.
Thus, for these five games, Cricket Australia can possibly continue with Tim Paine at the helm. It shouldn’t make a whole difference overall and the wicket-keeper batsman will also get an opportunity to prove his potential in the meantime. Steve Smith’s captaincy ban ends on 29 March 2020 and then he will be eligible to take up the leadership yet again.
So, for the Test matches that will be played later on, he can lead the side once more. After the ban, he seems a much more determined individual and will put in his best efforts for the upliftment of Australian cricket. If given the chance, he can reclaim his lost stake and can possibly lead Australia for many more years to come.
2. Pat Cummins
Pat Cummins. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Another strong contender to take up the role of the Test captain for Australia is Pat Cummins. Of late, there have been quite a few demands about promoting him as the skipper of the side. His heroics with the bat and the ball in the series against India in the 2018-19 series impressed one and all.
In January 2019, he was named Australia’s vice-captain and is continuing in the role even now. While Pat Cummins hasn’t led any of the Australia teams thus far in his career, he has shown some good leadership qualities over the last few months. The pacer is quite a popular member of the dressing room and enjoys a good amount of support and respect from his teammates.
Pat is an equally important member both in the batting line-up and the bowling attack. Hence, he can provide some valuable insights to both the departments. This perspective could also help him make decisions in the best interests of the team. Thus, he is worth a consideration about being the leader of the Test team.
3. Travis Head
Travis Head. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Along with Pat Cummins, Travis Head was also named the joint vice-captain of the Test team earlier this year. At that point in time, other names such as Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Usman Khawaja were also considered for the role. Given their experience, these players might fit in for the role of vice-captain. But as the leader of the group, Travis Head clearly stands out.
He has proved his skill in the Big Bash League (BBL) while leading the Adelaide Strikers. Thus far in 9 games under his leadership, the team has won 8. At just 21 years of age, he was also named the captain of South Australia team. This made him the youngest captain of the side in the 122-year first-class history.
Apparently, Travis Head was highly impressive in the leadership interviews that were conducted last year. He often provides the skipper and the management with some valuable insights in the team meetings. Even though he hasn’t played many Tests in his career so far, Head has been quite impressive. His prior experience as a captain will also help.
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