It is safe to say that Australia’s current Test captain Tim Paine has been on the wrong end of the critics. He has not only lost another series to India at home but it was his missed opportunities behind the stumps which denied Australia a victory in the last two Tests. He is 36 years old now, and while he is batting as well as he ever has, history suggests he’s approaching the end of the line — Adam Gilchrist retired at 36, Ian Healy and Brad Haddin at 35. So does Paine get dropped as a captain? Who could replace Paine as Australia’s new Test skipper? Today we shall be taking a look at a few options Australia could consider, if they plan on replacing Paine with a new skipper.
The most viable and the best man for the job has to be the former Aussie captain Steve Smith. Australia won 18 of its Tests under Smith, including four over England, while losing 10 — five of those coming on the bounce in 2016.
It’s a good record rather than a great one.
Tactically, Smith was from a similar school as Paine so whether he offers the shake-up some seem to crave remains to be seen.
A lot of time has passed since Cape Town. Nevertheless, there’s no guarantee all the wounds of that ugly saga have healed and that could be his biggest hurdle to regaining the captaincy
More often than not, the vice-captain has been the favourite to be the next man in charge.
It’s part of the reason why Cummins’ name has come up regularly as a contender to succeed Paine as skipper when the time comes.
However, it’s worth remembering that the role of vice-captain has been a bit of a merry-go-round for the past few years.
In Paine’s first series in charge, Mitchell Marsh was his deputy. In his first home summer, it was Marsh and Josh Hazlewood. Last summer it was Travis Head and Cummins. This summer it was Cummins alone.
There is something to read into who is vice-captain but it’s certainly not the be all and end all. Hurting Cummins’ chances of being made captain is that he has never captained a side in any format at the senior level so would effectively have to learn on the job.
There is little to suggest Labuschagne is made for captaincy and in fairness to the right-hander it would be unfair to expect that of someone who has only been a lock in the side for the past 15 months. If Labuschagne is in the running to captain the side, expect him to be in around Australia’s on-field think tank sooner rather than later. Like Cummins, he has never led a senior team, which is a bit of an issue throughout the current XI.
Travis Head’s resume as a captain is pretty decent to say the least. Despite being a separate format, he has won a BBL for his club and thus proving that he has it in him. He seemed to be being groomed for the role when he was made the Test side’s vice-captain alongside Cummins last summer before being relieved of the role against India. However, he was the man in charge of Australia A’s first game in India, pulling the strings of an XI that included current national captain Paine.
The problem for Head — and it’s a big one — is that he was left out of Australia’s XI in the last two Tests against India. While he might be back in there against South Africa, that level of insecurity around his spot in the XI is something he needs to overcome before he can be considered an option to captain the team.