Dubai: It’s quite unlikely – as of now - that Steve Smith may regain his captaincy of the Australian team as his two-year ban on leadership ended quietly on Sunday. The sporting culture of the Baggy Greens believes in a horses-for-courses theory rather than that of superstardom, and Cricket Australia sees no reason for a change at the top now.
Tim Paine, the pretender who was thrust to the ‘hot seat’ of Test captaincy two years back – under the guidance of new head coach Justin Langer to oversee a makeover of the ugly side of Australian cricket – had done an exceptional job. Mind you, the mild-mannered Paine was no Adam Gilchrist either behind the stumps or with the bat, but passed the ultimate benchmark of winning the Ashes last year as underdogs.
However, the mission would have been an impossible one but for the Superhuman efforts from Smith, who has on Sunday completed the last frontier towards his so-called redemption after the Sandpapergate scandal. Australia, meanwhile, can be scure in the thought that they have a fall-back leadership option in Smith – as and when sporting activities resume after the onslaught of the coronavirus outbreak. David Warner, the other senior pro involved in the scandal, meanwhile, carries a life ban from any leadership role but looks happy to shoulder the key role of an opening batsman.
The story of the Australian team’s collective journey under Paine during the last two years had been one of the most compelling ones in modern cricket – prompting Amazon to produce a eight-part series ‘The Test – A New Era for Australia’s Team,’ being promoted as a must on the watch-list of almost every single cricket fan of the world.
The documentary focuses around Langer’s reign as Australia coach since the sandpaper scandal, but it’s Smith — whose sobbing face on returning to Sydney from South Africa from that ill-fated series still remains fresh in memory — steals the show.
Smith, called a ‘weird man’ by one of his teammates in the film which had extensive access to the Australian dressing room, had a dream Ashes series full of heroics - 660 runs and surviving a potentially dangerous concussion after being felled by a Jofra Archer bouncer the second Test. There are also snippets about his obsession with batting (he shadow-practises in the middle of a restaurant, apparently) are also rivetting enough.
“I like it when I get in my bubble and know that I’ve got that level of concentration going that it’s going to take something good to get rid of me.” Smith said in the film.
From the leading Australian batsman-captain to the man with the tragic flaw, the life has really come a a full circle for Smith, who is now only 30 and should have a good five to six years of cricket left in him.
Captain or no captain – he has already emerged as one of the most enigmatic characters of the modern game and will hopefully continue to scale more batting peaks in the years to come!