Well, well, well, here we are again. Queue pictures of Steve Smith, David Warner and Darren Lehmann all in tears in their own disgraced press conferences just a few years ago. Now, we move on to someone who was advertised as the man who would bring a certain level of balance and class to the position that is ranking second only to the Prime Minister in regards to Australia’s leadership status. Tim Paine, the courageous, trustworthy, amicable leader that had up until this point, lifted Australia from their own ashes after one of the most ignominious events in Australia’s sporting history, has now stepped down after leaked messages to a former female colleague outed him to the public, just weeks away from an Ashe’s series on home soil (have a field day barmy army). As it stands, we don’t have a captain appointed so, I’m going to try my hand at picking the poor bloke who has to step in and take on another mess just weeks away from an event the entire country will have their eyes on. I'll also attack another question: now that he's no longer captain, should we all still pretend that Paine is the strongest keeper/batsman Australia have? For me… No, I’ll give you and handful of options at the end for who I think should be added to the squad in place of Paine.
Could we follow our old foes lead in appointing their young superstar with captaincy? I mean, Joe Root has done pretty well for himself after being chosen as captain after Alaistair Cook’s retirement way back in 2017 at just 27 - the same age Marnus Labuschagne is right now. We all know how great Labushagne is with the bat and how deep his love and knowledge of the game goes but for me, it would be a mistake to appoint him so early in his career. I’m sure Marnus himself would tell you he’s eager and ready but he only has 18 matches under his belt. Earlier this week Australian great Andrew Symonds stated that he believes Marnus isn’t ready just yet
“I would say he’d be well aware that one of the biggest things he’s got to work on is his maturity. I was a culprit of it as well. There’s a time for a joke and there’s obviously a time to knuckle down and be serious. What he’s got to do is just find the right balance I suppose. I’m confident he’ll be able to do that. If he has aspirations to captain I’m sure give him another couple of years, you’ll probably see a big difference in his maturity.”
And I couldn’t agree more, can he captain one day? Yes absolutely, is now the right time? Absolutely not.
I’m not sure if Lyon makes the most sense, but it would definitely be the most fun! Anyone who watched the Amazon prime: The Test, a series that followed Australia’s cricket team showing us behind the scenes footage, would know how much Lyon embodies Australian cricket culture. The series showed us that Mr Cricket Mike Hussey himself even appointed Lyon as the designated leader for the team song. He’s also one of the most experienced players on the team, just quietly racking up 100 total games for the Australian test team. For me, if it’s going to be a bowler selected for captaincy, it will be a man mentioned later on, but the prospects of Lyon being Australia’s captain aren’t as wild as some may think.
This one will likely ruffle some feathers… and would be one of Australian sport's biggest comeback stories ever. Smith was famously booted and suspended from the role of Australia’s test captain along with then vice-captain David Warner due to the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal. Warner was banned from ever taking up a leadership role within any Australian side forever, as he admitted to being the ring-leader of the entire thing. However, Smith who was ultimately the captain at the time and didn’t step in has now waited out his suspension and is now eligible to return to the position of captain. While Smith is the most well equipped to take over as captain, and given the fact that we are only a few weeks away from starting, selectors may lean on his experience as a captain. To me, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right choice. Even just writing about the sandpaper fiasco has me all riled up again. Personally, Steve Smith isn’t the right man for the job and this would absolutely be a controversial move but the Australian selectors will definitely consider it.
As things stand right now, I strongly feel the best man for the job is Patty Cummins. Cummins has occupied the role of vice-captain for two years now and has had a total of zero scandals in that time. Hooray! No, but in all seriousness, this is the most logical replacement for Paine. At 28 years old, Cummins has become the leader of Australia’s bowling attack and I guess in a way became Australia’s pin-up boy as he has all attributes an Australian captain should have; humble, universally well respected and ultimately tough as nails. However, the same doubts pop up when considering a bowler to be a captain. Can he handle the workload? Can he remain concentrated enough? Is it too much to ask of him? I think it’s worth taking a punt on Cummins, give him a chance to prove himself and you might just be surprised. While he may be the first bowler-captain since Richie Benaud in 1964, he ticks all the criteria and when asked earlier on the week, before any of this went down about whether he would be ready to take on the role of Australia's test captain he said this;
“I guess so – I’ve been in the role for a couple of years now...I’ll be ready if I have to," he said. I think it’s something you have to be aware of, and if I was in the role and I found it tough at times, there are 10 other guys I would lean on out in the middle. You’ve got people like Smithy (Steve Smith) and Davey Warner who are incredibly experienced, all the bowlers are experienced and look after themselves pretty well. I’d have no issue handballing it over to other people to help out”
Give him a go!
The wicket-keeping question is just as interesting. For me, the only reason Paine was still in the squad coming into this test series anyway was his captaincy. You can’t tell me we don’t have better options around the country who can give us better production with the gloves and with the bat on the periphery. So with his spot in the starting eleven under threat, let’s go through some names the Australian selectors could consider should they decide to replace Paine.
Alex Carey has been the one waiting on the sidelines for a long time now and should be considered the man first in line to take the mantle of Australia’s test keeper if the opportunity arises. Carey has had 83 white-ball caps under his belt since 2018 and has captained Australia in 3 ODI’s. His Sheffield Shield form this year doesn’t instil a heap of confidence in his potential impending selection only averaging 29.60 in 6 innings. Though in the past two seasons of Sheffield Shield he has averaged a much more respectable 55.14 and 59.80. It’s also worth mentioning that Carey was Paine’s backup for the cancelled South Africa tour. Carey would unquestionably be my pick here.
Inglis’ stock skyrocketed in the T20 scene as he built a serious name for himself playing for Leicestershire in the T20 blast in England. His great form for Leicestershire earned him a call up to England’s premier short-form competition The Hundred, playing for the London Spirit. He concluded the season for them as the teams highest run-scorer. All this great form playing in include earned him a call up to Australia’s T20 world cup squad. All this T20 form is well and good, but can the guy play test cricket; In 12 innings in the 2020/21 Sheffield Shield competition Inglis averaged a ludicrous 73.12 and had 3 centuries to go with it. Inglis is only 26 years old and could be viewed as a long term stalwart in the team and should obviously be viewed as a very serious contender for the gloves if Paine is in fact exiled from the team.
If we’re going to go off form, it’s going to be Josh Phillipe. He’s averaging 62.16 with the bat and has the most dismissals this season in the Shield with 22. Philippe is only 24 so the jury is out on whether or not he’s going to be ready for an Ashes series against an up and about barmy army but the number don’t lie. He’s got one of the biggest names in the sport in his corner as well with AB De Villiers describing him as someone he see's himself in. If they do in fact lean Philippe’s way and he performs well, he could be our keeper for a decade. That in itself is an exciting prospect.
Initially, I had World Cup hero Matthew Wade here but I just think his International Test Cricket days are over. So, instead I’ve got another form Shield keeper Jimmy Pierson down as a bolter pick. Averaging 53.00 with two centuries in a star-studded Queensland team Jimmy Pierson is surely putting his hand up for selection. He’s been someone who has quietly gone about his business and probably isn’t the favourite to get the spot if it does open up but if the selectors want someone who has elite glovework and will steady the ship for a while, they could do a lot worse than going with Jimmy Pierson.