Redemption is a virtuous trait and everyone deserves a second chance in life.
If we were to ask anyone if this is a trait Australians possess, we would mostly agree on a fair go after a wrong deed has been done.
No-one is crying for Steve Smith’s self-inflicted plight as the world’s best batsman without a captaincy. The actions in Cape Town two years ago not only blighted Australia’s cricketing reputation but could have ended the careers of three outstanding cricketers. While it’s debatable whether Cameron Bancroft will ever wear the baggy green again, he was chosen in the first Test of last year’s Ashes campaign in England. While his form was not outstanding, it drew a line under any underlying prejudice that we needed to sweep him under the carpet, never to be seen again. Dave Warner, on the other hand, was never going to be left out and has picked up where he left off.
Boyish skipper Smith has developed from a leg spinner who could bat a bit to being regarded as second only to Donald Bradman, with an average of 62.84 in his 73 Test appearances. As Test captain between 2015 and 2018 he won 18 out of 34 matches (52.9 per cent). While statistics can’t be the only factor in deciding a player’s suitability as captain, his record was not outstanding. By comparison, current captain Tim Paine has a 52.6 per cent success rate (ten out of 19). So it’s even stevens in that regard.
What’s important in a nation’s captain is the integrity of the man and if his troops will follow him. While the South African sojourn would lead many to put a red line through his name, he has returned with an iron will to knuckle down and perform to a higher standard than before his enforced lay-off. With that has come a new maturity and the realisation that he must do better as a leader.
While he has not expressed any desire to return to the top job, if he were tapped on the shoulder, he would be wise to accept it as a means of redemption for sins of the past.
While I’m not suggesting Tim Paine be replaced as captain, the day will come where he does call stumps. At 35 that day will be sooner rather than later. For a player who made his Test debut in 2010, like Pat Cummins, he lost years of international cricket due to injury and incumbency. At 30, Steve Smith could play for another ten years and cement his reputation as a superb tactician and batsman par excellence if the desire is there and he remains injury-free. For a man who lives with a bat in his hand, motivation should not be a concern.
We can look to past captains as flawed men but outstanding cricketers to show that after an indiscretion that could have ended their career they performed the top job as leaders of men. Greg Chappell retired a great of the game and Steve Smith deserves the opportunity to lead once more.