If Steve Smith was hoping for a reignition of captaincy ambitions for the national team, not only the coronavirus but also, Tim Paine might be the cause of his pain.
Steve Smith became eligible to serve as Australia’s captain following the two-year ban on captaincy after the ball-tampering incident in South Africa in March of 2018. However, his availability has not meant an immediate ascendency for the Australian batsman despite much speculation. Instead, it appears that Cricket Australia is intent on reposing faith in Paine who has risen to the challenge at the eleventh hour and even pulled off some results.
Some of the reasons going the way of Paine retaining the captaincy have to do with the fact that Australia have been able to win against the likes of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand. More importantly, Australia were able to draw with England last year at the Ashes and will be expected to compete strongly at home.
Looking for consistency, the combination of Justin Langer as the Australian coach and Paine as Australia’s Test captain has worked rather well for consolidating Australia after it appeared to tumble both, from respect and from the rankings after putting up a dominant streak.
Smith has been equally instrumental on his comeback to batting prolifically for Australia, continuing almost as if he had not had an ignominious break.
However, his wait will have to be a little longer since Paine himself has indicated that he is in no mood to give up the leadership post, stating how he missed being a part of the Australian team set up when he was dropped. Now with a privileged position and challenges ahead, including India’s tour coming up, Paine will have it all to keep.
Smith himself has not had a strong contention amongst many in Australian cricket circles after repeatedly seeming to find himself in hot waters, for not being as robust a captain as Australia have tended to display in terms of being aggressive, and strong-minded in the past. After the ball-tampering, it seemed that Smith had virtually sealed his fate, even in the captaincy department, even if desperation to unearth Australia’s next captain might have left the door slightly ajar.
Paine might extend some concern for Smith in that department because the longer Paine is in power, Smith might have to fall behind in line, as other contenders reveal themselves. All of Australia will certainly be hoping that the future is not as bleak as it seemed two years ago when Paine was pulled back into a role that did not seem his to begin with. But for a fortuitous turn of events, Australia might have been looking into the abyss. Now they do not want to rock the boat and understandably so.
Smith might as well focus on his bat doing his bidding for him. It’s Paine all the way unless India pull off something out of the box to put the spotlight back on him.