Australia coach Justin Langer believes disgraced David Warner and Steve Smith are ready for a hostile reception from South African supporters when they play in a three-match Twenty20 International series starting in Johannesburg on Friday.
Australia have named their captains and vice-captains for their white-ball sides but are yet to decide who will be Tim Paine’s vice-captain in the Test team.
Respected cricket writer for Newscorp, Robert Craddock, thinks that the position of vice-captain is one of the most undervalued in the Australian Test team and points to successful periods in Australian cricket when Geoff Marsh, Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist were all well-performed vice-captains.
The vice-captain performs an important and often invisible role. While the captain is busy dealing with the day-to-day commitments of running an international team, the vice-captain can help keep an eye on the dressing room and see if any players might need a quiet chat or a pat on the back.
This is why the Australian selectors must think very carefully about who they elevate to the vice-captaincy position in the Test team. Some of the players who have been mooted as possible candidates include Mitch Marsh, Pat Cummins or Peter Handscomb. One name that is noticeably missing from discussions but should be the favourite for the position is Nathan Lyon.
Lyon is easily the most capped (78 Tests) and experienced player in the Test team and has now been playing Test cricket for seven years. Lyon said earlier in the week that, “I’m obviously the most experienced one there with most games played so if I can provide some assistance to Tim (Paine) over the next 12 months it’s going to be a massive help to him”.
When asked if he would like to be Test vice-captain, Lyon said, “It’s not on my radar, no, I’m a big one for believing you don’t need a label to be a leader, but if the opportunity comes then I wouldn’t say no to it. I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m sitting in the Test side”.
Lyon is the reluctant vice-captain Australian cricket needs. He is one of the first players picked in the team and has no injuries hanging over him, unlike Mitch Marsh or Pat Cummins. Cummins, Mitch Marsh and Handscomb should all be free to concentrate on playing good Test cricket while they establish themselves in the team.
History would suggest that the best vice-captains are the ones with no captaincy aspirations, unlike Michael Clarke, who coveted the captaincy while he was vice-captain. Lyon has never shown any desire to be skipper of the team.
Lyon has just broken back into the Australian white-ball squad, so his influence in the dressing room could be felt across all three formats. He is also a favourite of the Australian public, with the ‘Bowling Gary’ chant heard regularly across grounds in Australia, which would be a welcome boost after the hammering the image of the team took in South Africa.
Lyon has a mild and unassuming character and is almost the complete opposite of the man he could be replacing, David Warner.
Nathan Lyon is entrusted with singing the Australian victory song after every Test win and perhaps now he could do it as vice-captain.