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If not Smith, who?

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Steve_Smith_Australia_cricketSteven Smith became the third-youngest Test captain in the history of Australian Cricket when he took over the reins from Michael Clarke before the second Test against India in 2014. It wasn’t easy, but he did prove his mettle, and then rightfully returned the baton back to Clarke.

He faced criticism during his brief reign. His tactics were widely criticised by fans and media alike during the last two tests against India. He himself acknowledged that he declared too late in those Tests. However, he worked on his conservative approach and that dubious skipper seems long gone.

Smith’s record as Australia’s captain has been great. In the test format, he has won 7 out of 11 matches, while the rest have been drawn. He has an incredible win percentage of 63.63%. Most importantly, he hasn’t lost a single match.

In ODIs, Australia has won 11 out of 16 matches with a win percentage of 68.75%. It is the T20I format where he fails to impress. Out of his 8 matches as captain, half of the matches ended up in a loss for Australia.

As I was going through the Australian line-up for the tri-series, I started to think about the possible alternatives of the current skipper. Not that Australia needs it, but it's never too early to explore the possibilities.

Keeping that hypothetical situation in mind, three possible contenders made their way to the top:

1. David Warner

It isn’t that difficult. Most people would have guessed the first option easily. From punching Joe Root in a bar to winning the IPL with SunRisers Hyderabad, the 27-year-old has come a long way.

Three years ago, Warner could have easily burst out at underperforming players in his side. However in IPL 9, his patience was commendable. Not only did he keep his mouth shut when his players made a mistake, he also showed that the best way to teach was to lead by example.

Leading from the front, Warner was the second highest scorer in IPL 9. He had his emotional outbursts, but they weren’t directed at others. Instead, he directed it all at himself, like in the match against Delhi where he missed the ball which flew past to the boundary.

Opening with an emotionally charged Shikhar Dhawan could have been tough, but he controlled himself with great patience even when the Indian batsman was underperforming.

And after all this, winning an IPL trophy against the massively overhyped RCB was an achievement in itself which doesn’t need to be justified. The hard hitter has transformed himself into a perfect combination of youthful exuberance and aging maturity.

He surely has it in him to lead the mighty Australians through any catastrophe, at least in the T20I format, if not the rest.

2. Aaron Finch

Aaron Finch has already led the Australian T20I side in 6 matches but was scrapped after a 3-0 series loss at home to India in January. I still feel he wasn’t given enough opportunity.

He had won 50% of his matches, including the ill-fated series against India. Before that, he had a perfect win record. Now compare this to the current Australian captain’s who also has a 50% win record in T20.

I feel his axing was never justified, and that Cricket Australia acted in a hurry because a World T20 was lined up ahead.

He has also led the Melbourne Renegades squad in the Big Bash League. In 2012-13, his side finished as the top team in league stage, but faltered in the semi-final. He is still the second highest run-scorer in the BBL.

As a player, Finch has shown a lot of credibility. He knows how to rotate strike, and perfectly coordinates with fellow batsman, barring a few exceptions in the IPL. Everyone remembers the scuffle between him and Jadeja, but it was quickly sorted out.

The 29-year-old surely deserves another shot at the helm of Australian squad, and has an equally compelling case alongside Warner.

3. Usman Khawaja

The third option must have raised a few eyebrows. What has he really done? Why would you even consider him? To answer those questions, I would like you to take a closer look at his batting style, records, and personal opinions.

Khawaja made his debut for Australia way back in 2011 against England. But it wasn’t until recently that he got a chance to prove his talent.

Take a look at his batting style closely. He never plays a rash shot, even if he’s offered a chance. He’s a perfect classical player, hard to find in a generation where slogging is so common. Ruthless power is always preferred over timing when T20 tries to establish itself as the most popular format.

On the other hand, Usman Khawaja, even during T20s, loves to play his shots through the gaps. Loose balls are always timed to perfection. More importantly, he exactly knows how to switch his tempo between the three formats.

Consider this: he played 4 matches in the BBL last season and scored 345 runs at an incredible average of 172.50 with a strike rate of 163.50. Similarly, in the Test series against New Zealand in November last year, he scored 304 runs in just 2 matches, with an average of 152.00. His form continued against the West Indies. 200 runs in just 2 matches, with an average of 100.00.

His maturity is seen not only in the shots he plays, but also the words he speaks. Following a brilliant season at home, he was still not selected in the ODI squad for the tour to New Zealand. As the selectors drew flak for not selecting him, he maintained his modesty with a smile as he reinforced his faith on the selectors.

The 29-year-old has got all the possible characteristics which a captain needs to have, and he could be a perfect fit for a Captain’s place in the Australian line-up.

 

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