Paine: Smith wants captaincy from me

Tim Paine is still intent on playing but he says Steve Smith wants to take over the captaincy from him when the wicketkeeper calls it quits.

Tim Paine has no doubt Steve Smith wants to lead Australia again as questions remain about who will take over the captaincy when the wicketkeeper retires.

Paine’s form with the gloves and captaincy credentials came under fire during the recent Test series loss to India. Cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar was particularly scathing, calling Paine “hopeless” and saying he lacks the tactical nous needed to be skipper at international level.

The 36-year-old has given no indication he wants to step away anytime soon and has the selectors’ backing looking ahead to next summer’s Ashes after a scheduled tour to South Africa was called off because of COVID-19 fears.

Smith has tried to dead-bat questions about whether he wants to be captain again, after being stripped of the honour following the sandpaper cheating scandal in 2018. But as far as Paine is concerned, he knows what the 31-year-old wants.

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“We haven’t spoken about his captaincy as much, but certainly about captaincy as I’m always standing next to him in the slips and off the field having conversations about it,” Paine told Andrew Voss on SEN Breakfast.

“There’s no doubt he would like to do it again I think, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the next six to 12 months.”

Smith may crave the captaincy but the India series didn’t help his cause. The controversy that erupted when he marked his guard on the batting crease while fielding shows he is held to higher standards than the rest, and that incident may well have been the final nail in his captaincy coffin.

The run machine also been slammed for his petulant reactions to getting out in the Sheffield Shield since the season resumed.

Pat Cummins has been touted as a possible contender to take Paine’s position, but there are concerns about the workload he’ll face as a fast bowler juggling the captaincy. He was recently made captain of the NSW one-day side, starting in perfect fashion by scoring runs and taking wickets in the Blues’ comfortable win over Victoria earlier this month.

Marnus Labuschagne is also in the conversation, but there are question marks over his maturity after some of his chat was heard on stump and broadcast microphones during the course of the summer.

Like Smith, Labuschagne has also been criticised for his reactions to being dismissed in Sheffield Shield games.

“Pat Cummins is someone we’re trying to upskill, but he’s one of many,” Paine said. “There’s also Travis Head and there’s Marnus Labuschagne. So there are a lot of guys.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is develop more leaders in our team and Steve Smith is certainly one of those.”

Alex Carey is yet to play a single Test but has emerged as a left-field contender for the captaincy, having impressed in the Australian ODI and T20 sides, and for the Adelaide Strikers in the BBL.

Smith has recently had chances to endorse Cummins’ captaincy, but shied away from loudly singing his teammate’s praises.

“I think being a fast bowler it (captaining) would be tough. But that’s not for me to really answer,” he told SEN before NSW’s win over Victoria. When asked after the cruisy 59-run win if he was impressed with the quick’s captaincy, Smith added: “He was good; pretty easy day I think today.

“I don’t think there was too much to do. Not a tough day, but did good on his first day.”

Panellists on ABC’s Offsiders program were taken aback by Smith’s lukewarm comments, agreeing the remarks indicated Smith was eager to reclaim the Australian captaincy.

“Hardly an endorsement,” host Kelli Underwood said last weekend. “That’s a man who wants his captaincy back. I don’t think he’s going to get it.”

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