Three years after his ignominious exit as Australia's captain in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal, Steven Smith has said he is keen and ready to lead the national side again if an opportunity came his way.
Smith was suspended from international cricket for 12 months and banned from leadership roles for two years for his role in the scandal during the Cape Town Test in March 2018.
"I've certainly had a lot of time to think about it and I guess now I've got to a point where if the opportunity did come up again, I would be keen," Smith told News Corp.
"If it was what Cricket Australia wanted and it was what was best for the team at the time, it's certainly something I would be interested in now, that's for sure."
The scandal centred around Smith, his deputy David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, who was caught on camera attempting to change the condition of the ball using sandpaper, and it plunged Australian cricket into crisis.
Paine has since led Australia's Test side with distinction, but with the wicketkeeper-batsman turning 37 by the time he captains in the Ashes series against England at the end of 2021, a clear succession plan would be required.
Few players have better credentials to succeed Paine than the 31-year-old Smith but it has been fast bowler Pat Cummins who has been nurtured in the past as Australia's vice-captain and he has been handed the one-day captaincy of New South Wales this season
"I'm always going to have to live with Cape Town regardless of whether I lead again or not. It's always there," Smith said. "I've been through all that now.
"Time keeps moving forward, and I've learnt so much the last few years about myself and grown as a human being. I feel as though I'd be in a better place if the opportunity did come up.
"If it doesn't, that's fine as well and I'd support whoever is in charge the same way I've supported Tim and Finchy. I haven't always felt like I wanted to do it again. That's only come in the last little bit."
The topic of Smith captaining Australia again came up during the visit by India this season when Finch missed the second T20I with injury and Cummins was not part of the squad. Matthew Wade was handed the role with coach Justin Langer there is a "process" to go through before Smith can captain again.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo late last year, CA chairman Earl Eddings said that there had not yet been discussions about Smith.
"We've got some great young leaders coming through," he said. "So it's not just about should Steve take over, it's about what's best overall. Steve's a great young man and he was a good captain when he was there. Like any succession there's planning in place. Have we sat down as a board specifically to discuss the next captain? No we haven't.
"We'll be guided by the recommendations of the selection panel, they always come back to our board at the right time with their recommendation, and we'll go through it in detail when they do that."