Steve Smith’s reluctance to encourage one-day NSW skipper Pat Cummins publicly has led some leading media figures to suggest he’s envious of the fast bowler and hell-bent on reclaiming the Test captaincy.
Mark Taylor believes Cricket Australia’s decision to make Cummins Australia’s sole Test vice-captain in November didn’t necessarily indicate he was a lock to eventually take the reins from Tim Paine.
However, Cummins’ appointment to NSW’s captaincy for the Blues’ one-day cup campaign has given Australia’s selectors a chance to assess his skippering ability. Perhaps of utmost interest to the selectors is how he copes with juggling his enormous bowling workload with captaincy.
Smith was asked ahead of NSW’s first one-day clash of the season, against Victoria last week, if there was any reason why Cummins couldn’t captain Australia – and his comments appeared icy.
“Good question. I think being a fast bowler it would be tough. But that’s not for me to really answer,” Smith told SEN.
Then when asked if he was impressed with Cummins’ state captaincy debut after the Blues’ 59-run win over Victoria, he was far from glowing in his answer.
“He was good. Pretty easy day I think today,” Smith said.
“I don’t think there was too much to do. Not a tough day, but did good on his first day.”
ABC sports presenter Kelli Underwood took objection to Smith’s bland comments.
“Hardly an endorsement,” Underwood said.
“That’s a man who wants his captaincy back. I don’t think he’s going to get it.”
Smith was stripped of the national captaincy in the wake of sandpapergate in Cape Town in March 2018, but his ban expired on March 29 of 2020.
The ball-tampering saga thrust Paine into the Test captaincy position, and while the overwhelming view is he’s been magnificent for the team’s attempt at a cultural overhaul, his antics, field placements and bowling changes in the 2-1 series loss to India were slammed by a host of cricket greats.
Smith should reclaim captaincy: Taylor
ABC sports commentator Alister Nicholson said Smith’s lukewarm remarks on Cummins’ captaincy said plenty about his desires.
“Cricketers are so good at playing a straight bat,” Nicholson said.
“They know how to deliver the right line to a difficult question typically. For him to deviate so far away from that I think is quite telling.
“I wish Steve Smith didn’t want the captaincy back. I think he’s so much a better player without it and without that burden on his shoulders.
“But still, he’s a professional athlete and he’s driven by the want to be the absolute best he can be, and he wants to right the wrong of before and be the captain again. But I don’t think he will be.
“And Pat Cummins is the complete package. I think he’d do a great job.”