Shane Warne has weighed in on the debate around Steve Smith and the Australian captaincy, saying the star batsman shouldn’t be handed the top job straight away.
Cricket's hangover from Cape Town has now all but cleared with Smith free to captain Australia again if called upon.
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With the world's focus on the devastating coronavirus pandemic, Smith's two-year leadership ban from the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal ended quietly on Sunday morning.
While some believe Smith should be handed the captaincy again very soon, Warne isn’t one of them, backing current Test captain Tim Paine to continue.
“I’m sure he could captain Australia again but if I was a selector I wouldn’t,” Warne told the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast on Tuesday.
“I just want Smith to bat, I don’t want him to worry about the other stuff. I just want him to bat and bat and bat. He is a leader on the field anyway and I don’t think he needs to captain.
“I would keep Paine as captain as long as he is making runs. He has done a very good job as captain.
“It’s a different situation if Paine doesn’t make runs and is out of the side as then Smith comes back into calculations.”
Warne also said he doesn’t think Smith is the only candidate to replace Paine.
“But when everyone says there is no one else, it’s amazing who puts their hand up and you suddenly think ‘hang on, there might be’,” Warne added.
“Will it be Travis Head? We know how good a player he can be, although he finds a way to get out all the time around 40 or 50 having done all the hard work. He does a great job captaining South Australia.
“Why couldn’t Pat Cummins do it as a bowler? I think there will be other candidates by the time Paine decides to finish.”
Aussie cricketers facing uncertain times
David Warner's leadership ban is career-long, meaning there are no more terms left to expire from the sanctions imposed following the sport's darkest day.
It comes after the scandal cost Cricket Australia their men's captain, vice-captain, opening batsman (suspended) and coach (resigned) before the CEO and some members of the executive departed.
Smith and Warner have since returned to their sparkling best on the international scene, while Cameron Bancroft was afforded two chances in the Ashes before being dropped.
Justin Langer has found success replacing Darren Lehmann as coach, while Kevin Roberts has settled in as chief executive and the sport again looks settled.
While Smith's ban has been lifted, his time is now being spent in his home gym, playing guitar and going on 10 kilometre runs with the sporting world in limbo due to coronavirus.
Australian players were meant to fly from a New Zealand tour to the Indian Premier League this week, but it's now unclear when they'll next appear on a cricket field.
Mid-year tours of Bangladesh and England must be in major doubt and beyond them the Twenty20 World Cup and home Test series against India are scheduled for next summer.
Regardless, it seems unlikely 30-year-old Smith will take over a full-time captaincy role again for Australia in at least the short future.
The superstar batsman has been repeatedly pressed on leadership for the past year, but both he and Langer continue to back Paine and Aaron Finch to stay in their captaincy roles with the national teams.
Paine has helped rebuild the Test team to No.3 in the world, and at age 35 seems intent to play on until at least midway through the next year.
Finch took Australia to the semi-finals of last year's one-day World Cup, and together with Paine combined for an unbeaten home summer across all formats.
When one of the pair do retire, it will likely become a decision between Smith and quick Cummins for who leads Australia next.