With Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin in doubt for the Test series against India, who is capable of taking the reigns of captaincy?
There are five men who could possibly rise the the challenge, depending on what qualities the Australian selectors are searching for.
1. Steven Smith
Australia all-rounder Steven Smith has already been earmarked as a future captain by numerous players, both current and past. He has received support from the legendary Ricky Ponting, former batsman Mark Waugh and pace bowler Ryan Harris.
If Ponting, Waugh and Harris believe it would be wise to invest their faith in Smith, then it may be worth giving him a chance to see what he can do against India.
Smith also has experience as a captain as he led the Sydney Sixers to victory over the Perth Scorchers in the final of the 2011-12 Big Bash League. In addition to this, Smith has also captained New South Wales in the past.
The reason why Smith oozes captaincy material is the fact that he has led by example and been Australia’s anchor in the last couple of Test series. This was especially evident during the last Ashes series against England, where he scored 327 runs, which included two centuries and a half-century, at a solid average of 40.87.
He carried on being Australia’s saviour in the tour of South Africa, where he amassed 269 runs at an incredible average of 67.25, and during the recent Test series against Pakistan, where he accumulated 174 runs at a brilliant average of 43.50.
Furthermore, Smith has always maintained a cool composure and a calm mindset and approach when Australia find themselves in a high pressure situation. In fact, it seems that he would be a very similar captain to South Africa’s Hashim Amla as both players are very calculating and manipulative. Many people can’t read the expressions on their face or figure out what sort of plan they are forming in their minds.
Praise for Smith as captain
Ricky Ponting – “Steve Smith is the one I think who could find himself in that role. But if you had asked me two years ago, I would have said absolutely not. It seems like he has sorted himself out and he is playing well.”
Mark Waugh – “He’s a smart cricketer and a very good player. He’s got all the attributes to be a good captain, without putting too much pressure on him, because he’s only really just started his Test career. You throw his name around but his career is only just evolving.”
Ryan Harris – “He has a very good brain and has captained NSW. He reads the game well and his batting has come on. He’s only 25 or so, but he is in the bracket to be the next leader.”
2. Aaron Finch
Opening batsman Aaron Finch would not be the first name that comes to mind should someone need to replace Clarke as captain. However, Finch does have experience leading the national team as he was recently appointed as the country’s Twenty20 captain.
While Finch has not been captain for very long, he will definitely possess some idea of the pressures that come with the job and the constant changes that need to be made in the field and in the overall gameplan as well. In the few matches he has led Australia, Finch has looked very solid and he even kept his nerve during the third Twenty20 International against South Africa, which Australia ended up winning with one ball to spare.
Having excelled in a high pressure situation shows that Finch could actually be a solid candidate to captain Australia in the Test series against India. But then again, the big question is will the national selectors believe he is ready or will they feel that he needs a bit more experience first.
Nonetheless, if Finch were to be handed the reins for the Test series against India, it seems that he would be a very similar captain to Clarke. This is because he has always been an aggressive sort of player and his playing style will definitely have some influence on the way he leads the side.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing since Clarke, who has been an aggressive skipper right from the beginning and is always striving to win, is regarded as one of Australia’s most successful captains.
Praise for Finch as captain
Rod Marsh – “He has gained quality leadership experience through his role as captain of the Melbourne Renegades and the Pune Warriors. He also captained Australia A against the England Lions and excelled when given that chance.”
George Bailey – “I think Aaron Finch would be really good. I think he’s someone who has done it really well domestically [for Melbourne Renegades] and I think he thrives on it. I think he’s going to have a lot of opportunities to play. He’s someone who would do it really well.”
3. David Warner
Having been in the Test side for almost three years now, flamboyant opening batsman David Warner has quickly become a household name in the cricketing community. Warner really excelled with the bat during the last Ashes series against England as he scored 523 runs, which included two centuries and two fifties, at a magnificent average of 58.11.
However, his amazing form with the bat carried on when Australia toured South Africa in March as he hit 543 runs, which included three centuries and two half-centuries, at an unbelievable average of 90.50. Even though his side were whitewashed 2-0 during their recent Test series against Pakistan, Warner was one of the bright spots as he made 239 runs, which included one century and a fifty, at an excellent average of 59.75.
With Warner having proven his worth with the bat in series after series, he is starting to emerge as a strong candidate to take over as captain for the Test series against India. Furthermore, it would be very interesting to see if Warner would mimic his batting style and be an aggressive captain or whether he would chose a more deceptive route and try to come up with clever plans that would stun and surprise the opposition.
In fact, Warner is known to be a bit of a prodigy when it comes to captaining Australia as Smith, Clarke and former head coach Mickey Arthur have all thrown their support behind the burly opener.
Praise for Warner as captain
Mickey Arthur – “Davey has leadership potential. He has the ability to lead any Australian team in any form of the game at some stage. He has a very good cricket brain. He leads a lot by example. He trains the house down. The perceptions that everybody had of David Warner and the reality of David Warner the person are poles apart.”
Michael Clarke – “He’s a great man and I love playing cricket with him and I’m really confident that if he continues to grow as he has done over the past four or five years there’s no reason, in my opinion, why he hasn’t got the potential to captain Australia one day.”
Steven Smith – “The way he controls himself around the group, it’s been amazing to see the way he’s transformed. He’s heading in the right direction, that’s for sure. He’s been in terrific form.”
4. George Bailey
George Bailey is definitely one of the frontrunners to replace Clarke as captain should he and Haddin miss the Test series against India. However, in order to make Bailey captain, he would need to be included in the Test squad for the series.
Bailey did not enjoy a lot of success during the last Ashes series against England and was subsequently dropped from the Test side. But, given his recent form, it will be tough for the national selectors to snub him for the upcoming series against India, especially if Australia will be without two of their most experienced players in Clarke and Haddin.
Bailey has also captained Australia on numerous occasions in Twenty20 Internationals and ODIs. In fact, he has been Clarke’s deputy for a while in the 50-over format of the game and this will give him some idea of how Clarke goes about his leadership duties. Since he has replaced Clarke as captain many times in the past, this will not be a new experience for Bailey and nor will it put him under any immense pressure.
Bailey also seems as if he would be a very cunning captain as he has the tendency to hide his emotions quite well. While he seems to constantly have a grin on his face, it is hard to guess what he is thinking about more often than not. This would be a very useful attribute in the Test arena since the opposition will have a tough time trying to decipher what will be coming their way.
Praise for Bailey as captain
Mahendra Singh Dhoni – “He’s an interesting character. He plays good cricket, he’s someone who can play his strokes, he’s very intelligent and understands the game well. He’s a really good character to have.”
Glenn Maxwell – “George has obviously been an excellent captain for Tasmania back home and he’s done very well. He’s won tournaments for them and he’s brought that straight into Australia. He’s a very confident captain. He’s always very upbeat out in the field. He’s good to talk to with the bowlers. He’s very calm. And especially when he’s making runs, he’s been such a consistent performer over the last 18 months.”
Michael Hussey – “George being a smart player, a thinking player, he’s probably perfect for that role. I’m sure he’s going to get challenged along the way, everyone does, but he’s got the mental capability and the composure to be able to handle whatever’s thrown at him, and it seems like he doesn’t get too worried about what other people say about him, which is important as well. He deserves his crack at this level.”
5. Shane Watson
All-rounder Shane Watson was Clarke’s deputy in Tests for quite a while before he decided to step down in April 2013. However, having the ability to learn from Clarke and witness how he marshaled his troops in numerous Test matches is something that many of the other candidates have not had the chance of doing.
This makes Watson stand out as one of the top candidates. However, if Watson were to be given the reins, it would be important for him to lead by example with both the bat and ball, while also ensuring that he doesn’t succumb to yet another injury as he has only recently recovered from an ankle and calf problem.
This is the one of the main downsides for Watson, as he has been very injury prone over the last couple of years and has even missed many series due to calf, hamstring and ankle issues. The other problem is his inability to convert his starts into bigger scores.
In the 52 Tests he has played thus far, Watson has gone past the half-century mark on 22 occasions, but he has only converted four of those fifties into triple figure scores.
Watson is one of those characters who definitely has all the right attributes to lead Australia. He has the confidence, he has the experience and he definitely possesses the skills with both the bat and ball. But, if he is given the chance to captain Australia in the Test series against India, it will be very intriguing to see whether his style of captaincy is a box office hit, or whether it will be an absolute flop.
Praise for Watson as captain
Michael Hussey – “I played under Shane when Michael Clarke was injured and he led brilliantly. He was an inspiring captain, the things he spoke about in the dressing room were brilliant. I think from having played underneath him he definitely would do a very good job as a captain.”
Michael Clarke – “Watto’s a good enough player and has certainly played enough cricket at the highest level to feel what he knows is right. I’m confident that if I don’t play, it will have zero impact on the result.”
Ricky Ponting – “Shane worked as hard as anybody around his cricket, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve never known him to be anything other than a very good team player and a great bloke to have around your team. I loved every moment that I played with Watto.”