If Cricket Australia ever decides to make Steve Smith captain of the country’s senior men’s team again, it would be making the most foolish decision in the annals of the game.
Smith showed his character in South Africa in 2018, but with the passage of time, public memory does tend to get a bit blurry. Let’s look back on the reasons why he should never be given the honour of being skipper again.
The sandpaper scandal was the worst in Australian cricket history – a black mark that will remain for generations. I remember the incident as though it was yesterday and what struck me most was the casual way Smith reacted after the event.
At the press conference following the game, Smith seemed to be of the opinion that he would be suspended for a game and then the grass would be green, the sky would be blue and life would return to normal.
He had just presided over one of the worst incidents in the history of the sport, allowing David Warner to push young batsman Cameron Bancroft into an act of cheating.
It’s generally agreed that Warner was the mastermind, but Smith was the boss and why wasn’t he calling the shots? That is the crucial question.
You can argue endlessly that all people make mistakes and that they should be forgiven, but that extends to some positions and not to others.
The captain of the Australian cricket team is second only to the prime minister of the day in this sports-mad country and if a man cannot take it seriously, then he should never be given the honour again.
It looks like the whole purpose of having a puff documentary about the team – which was released on Amazon – was to create the impression that the cricketers have undergone some kind of Damascene conversion and become the equivalent of the Dalai Lama.
And if Smith is at the helm, the chances of a return to the culture of old are much greater, for he demonstrated himself to be a weak leader who couldn’t put his foot down, provided that what was being done could’ve led to the team winning.
Smith is now 31 and he should realise that he was given the honour of a lifetime only to waste it. There should be no second chance for a person like him to sully Australian cricket’s reputation.
It does not matter who captains next, be it Pat Cummins or Josh Hazlewood. Neither has the attitude that Smith has – and that is all that counts.
Many bowlers have led Test teams to glory. There is no hard and fast rule that a batsman alone can handle the role. There was a myth that a wicketkeeper could not make a good fist of the role, but along came Adam Gilchrist and proved all the pundits wrong.
And then a man named MS Dhoni turned up and proved everyone wrong all over again. Tim Paine has done a decent job given the circumstances under which he had to take over and the type of talent he has under him.
You do not need a whiz to lead the team. During the days of Ian Botham, the man who led England was Mike Brearley: never a great batsman, but a very good leader. The late Frank Worrell was not the best batsman in the team either, but he was a father figure to many of his teammates and they would do anything for him.
Smith should quietly play out his remaining years and be grateful that he wasn’t banned for life for what he presided over in Newlands in 2018.