Fast-bowling captains: Is that too absurd?
Brisbane Heat bowler Alister McDermott bowls. AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Australia has had many triumphant leaders in the past. The likes of Allan Border, Donald Bradman, Richie Benaud and Greg Chappell have guided Australia inspiringly.
When Michael Clarke resigns who will take the mantel as commander and chief and what criteria will they need to fulfil before they can be accepted as Australian test captain?
David Warner has been touted as a future leader of the Australian side. Those at the top, however, should be weary of bestowing upon him a place he may not entirely fulfil.
Warner has been recently appointed Australia’s vice-captain in the one day leg of their United Arab Emirates tour.
While he seems an appropriate choice in the absence of an injured Shane Watson, one can only hope this is not a premature and unthoughtful precursor for a future promotion to Australia’s most important job.
During the past 12 months, Warner has been an integral and steady part of the Australian side across all three formats. He has remained a lone constant, a quality well suited to potential captaincy candidates. In addition, Warner is youthful and has the ability to lead from the front.
To this point, it would appear he follows in the steps of current chief, Michael Clarke. Despite all of this, Australia would be better suited looking at a less conventional contender to inherit the leadership.
When Warner has a lean trot, which his batting approach almost certainly assures, his place in the side will quickly be placed under intense scrutiny. Many captains have found themselves out of touch and teetering on the edge in the past.
Selecting a skipper who will be exposed to this situation only puts added pressure onto the National Selection Panel and the leadership group as a whole.
Clarke and Shane Watson are both 31, thus eliminating a prolonged stint as captain for Watson if and when he supersedes Clarke.
Clarke recently claimed he would not allow his career to linger into his mid-to-late thirties and that he would probably consider retirement when he feels he has achieved what he has set out to do. As with Clarke, a new leader must be groomed and prepared to take on the roll in a long-term appointment. But who fits the bill and what sort of a player should they be?
David Warner appears the front runner at just 25 years of age. Warner plays all forms of the game, is excellent in the field and can win matches on his own.
Another contender is George Baily who was appointed twenty 20 captain of Australia on debut based on his record in a leadership role. Baily isn’t exactly at the top of Australia’s batting stockpile but is more than useful and looks destined to play test cricket in the near future. These two would be the favourites with the bookies leading to any change in leadership.
I would like to see some innovation however. The likes of Matthew Wade and young fast-bowlers Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc would appear distant from captaincy honours. But who is to say they couldn’t do the job?
They all appear to have long and exciting international careers ahead of them. They bring youth and exuberance to the side and each is more than capable of holding a place.
Australia hasn’t had a regularly bowling captain in the test side since Richie Benaud (an all-rounder in fairness) lead from 1958 to 1964. But why must Australian captains be batsmen? Why can’t Patrick Cummins be groomed not only into one of Australia’s greatest fast-bowlers, but a fine leader of men too?
Darren Sammy has guided a young West Indies side with great enthusiasm and it’s hard to see a better option in the Caribbean than the man himself. Pakistan certainly has a record of producing inspirational fast-bowling captains, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are amongst their all-time greats.
Heath Streak, the forgotten man of Zimbabwe cricket was a sensational leader against much more fancied and formidable opponents and Kapil Dev who took 434 test wickets lead India in 34 tests with poise and determination.
Australia has had 43 test captains in all. In those 136 years, Australia has been led by one specialist bowler. Ian Johnson captained 17 tests in the 50′s, winning seven. But why has no other man, who cannot yield the willow alone, been given the opportunity to guide his county? The modern game demands innovation and I believe captaincy is certainly an area for review.
Narrow minded appointments have already resulted in Australia’s greatest ever non-captain being applauded for his leadership, but only when away from the baggy green.
While Shane Warne has been praised for his guidance of the Rajasthan Royals, Ricky Ponting was left dumbfounded when the greats of yesteryear deserted him and his poor and unimaginative field settings were exposed as a major weakness.
Why not think outside the square and leave all options open? Now is the time to begin the search to ensure the leader of tomorrow is as proficient as the leaders of today.
I say we do not only approve résumés with ‘batsman’ listed next to playing role. It’s time that all applications are reviewed with diligence and the best possible candidate be moulded for the future.
Unlike the appointment of Ricky Ponting, I believe the best leader be decided upon on ability, rather than mere convenience.
Fast bowling captains, maybe they’re not so absurd after all.
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