March 24, 2013

Australia's next captain? Many candidates, none convincing

There are five players in the current squad who could take on the responsibility in another four years, but the future still looks bleak

Apart from playing an aggressive brand of cricket, Australian teams have been renowned over the years for producing fast bowlers, young strokeplayers, wily legspinners and strong captains.

A spate of losses in India, a dearth of young stroke-making batsmen, and a bare cupboard when it comes to international-standard wristspinners, has Australia currently clinging hopefully to a good stock of fast bowlers and a tactically brilliant skipper. However, Michael Clarke's first Test match missed through injury has shown up the fact that Australia might also be struggling in the captaincy department if Clarke's baulky back restricts his playing future.

One of the more remarkable statistics in Australian cricket is the miniscule number of players who have been elevated to the captaincy. In 136 years of Test cricket, Shane Watson's appointment made it only 44. That means on average each Australian captain has had a span of around three years. Compare that with England, who in the same period have had 79 captains, equating to an average span of just over a year and a half for each.

A critical factor in choosing a Test captain is that he must be a permanent member of the side. Even though he's a talented cricketer, Watson would be lucky to his hold his spot on current form in a stronger Australian side. Throw in the fact that he was suspended for the previous Test for indiscipline and the picture regarding future Australian captains looks distinctly murky.

Let's say Clarke's terminally bad back allows him to perform his duties fully for another four years. Who in the current squad are the next full-time captaincy candidates?

The next captain would have to come from among David Warner, Matthew Wade, Steven Smith, Phillip Hughes or Moises Henriques. Now that sounds like an impressive list - most teams would be delighted to have five captaincy candidates in the touring party. However, on closer inspection the picture resembles a Romano rather than a Rembrandt, as none of those five choices has established himself as a Test player so far.

Wade and Warner are probably closest to that definition but they have drawbacks. Wade is a keeper and traditionally they are shunned as Australian captains, except in the fill-in category. Warner is an all-or-nothing batsman and this can create its own difficulties. It's hard to say to the rest of line-up: "Get your head down", when you've just holed out at third man in the first over.

Still, I wouldn't write off Warner as he will naturally become a little more conservative with age. Les Favell, the only first-class captain I played under, was very successful even though his approach to opening the batting made Warner look like a stonewaller.

Of those five candidates Warner and Smith seem to have the best tactical credentials on the evidence so far.

The real concern for Australian cricket is the failure of the system to throw up talented young batsmen. It is from this group that the bulk of the leaders arise, for the simple reason that the captain is usually a batsman and around the age of 27 is the ideal time to take over the leadership role. If a captaincy candidate comes into the Test side at around 20, hopefully he has matured, both as a cricketer and as a person, by the time he reaches his peak playing years.

Cracks have slowly been appearing in Australian cricket since the departure of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. However, the damage that has been inflicted by MS Dhoni and his men has turned it into a dire situation. When it comes to potential captains, young strokemakers and wristspinners, there are too many holes in the Australian dam and not enough fingers to go round.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator for Channel 9, and a columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    The next captain should be bailey. That's final.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2013, 8:39 GMT

    Probably from outside that list from future test players. Jordan Silk, Joe Burns, Ashton Agar, for example. Don't write off George Bailey becoming a test player/captain either.

  • Sathyanarayan on March 27, 2013, 8:11 GMT

    By far among the recent Aussie captains, Clarke is somewhat of a nice and decent guy which probably takes the edge out of him. He has not shown much aggression after taking over as captain. Neither is he as ill behaved like Pointing. But just being abrasively aggressive, does it ensure success in this gentlemanly sports? It might backfire since other teams also can and will give it back in abundance - they too are getting adept at playing the "mind games!!". After all "WHAT GOES AROUND; COMES AROUND".

  • Mariam on March 27, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    Warner would be the best choice, he has a good cricketing mind and is aggressive which is what we want our captain to be. Outside of the list Khawaja and Siddle are options as well but Warner is the top option

  • Simon on March 27, 2013, 3:53 GMT

    The current captaincy issue is not dissimilar to the Greg Chappell / Kim Hughes shuffle. I only hope they don't settle for Watson because there's no obvious Alan Border in the wings, otherwise we're in for 5 years of pain. Neither should the selectors be seduced by Clarke when available; he will not physically hold up over the next 3 years, so Australia could do much worse than promoting George Bailey (he can't possibly miss as much cricket as Watson) who has shown his credentials at State & Limited overs levels. At this crucial development time in so many players careers, we need to take the captaincy shuffle out of the equation and allow for one voice /one message, from a captain respected by players for his captaincy abilities. Australia has to be smarter than the Windies were with Lara, especially with 20 other cricketers careers on the line. Pick an experienced Bailey, get rid of rotation and let the young guys gain experience in all conditions , on all surfaces with one plan.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    I want to question Matthew Wade's place in the team. He just drops too many catches. He's not good enough to be there, and I'd much prefer Haddin, or Hartley as he is a better keeper. Sometimes bringing in the younger option just for the sake of it is not helpful. I believe he is proof of that. Also, we need more guys in the test team who don't play IPL, maybe CA should pay them more to be exclusive test & ODI players

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2013, 23:27 GMT

    I would groom Steve Smith as next captain.

    Most importantly though, I think CA need to give shield teams to the ACT and possibly NSW country. I think this could bring about a couple batsmen Australia don't have at the moment.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    Well Clarke is the man . It's the teams that has flaws not Clarke.I think he is committed to the team.I think Chris Rogers is a must pretty experienced guy n have Khwaja at3 n Hughes at 4 .No 6 got a b Alex Doolan and Haddin Should be in for wade

  • Alex on March 26, 2013, 17:33 GMT

    How can Henriques, Smith, Wade, Hughes and Warner be an impressive list!

    They are barely an impressive list of batsmen considering they all average under 40 in test cricket. How the hell can Henriques even be considered as a future captain, he shouldn't even be in any squad.

    Hughes would be a maybe, as he is only 24 and seems as if he might be a main stay in the team for the next 10 years. There is no point speculating now though, it could be someone we've all never heard of who becomes the 45th skip.

  • Prem on March 26, 2013, 1:41 GMT

    Michael Clarke a tactically brilliant skipper!! Where has Ian Chappell been? Clarke blundered by taking off Pattison after 3 overs when Patto put India on the ropes at 12 for 2 in Chennai, made a frivilous declaration at Hyderabad, dropped deserving players for trivial reasons in Mohali (a draw could have been secured at Mohali avoiding a whitewash), failed to bowl out SAF in Adelaide etc etc. And David Warner, Matthew Wade, Steven Smith, Phillip Hughes and Moises Henriques an impressive list!! LOL What is this, an attempt at humour?