Steve Smith has been handed Australia's Test captaincy again after Pat Cummins was officially ruled out of the second Test against the West Indies. Cummins didn't bowl on the final day of the first Test in Perth as the Aussies wrapped up a 164-run victory to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Smith took the reins while Cummins was off the field briefly in the first Test and has now been elevated to the captaincy for the day-night Test in Adelaide. Cummins had been hoping to back up and play in Adelaide but succumbed to a calf complaint, with Scott Boland replacing him in the XI.
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However the sight of Smith captaining the Test side again after the 2018 sandpaper scandal hasn't gone down well in some sections of Australian cricket. Smith was captain at the time when Cameron Bancroft was caught using sandpaper on the ball during a Test match in South Africa.
While Smith denies having any knowledge of the plan to use sandpaper on the ball, he previously admitted that he should have known what was going on because he was captain. The 33-year-old was handed a one-year ban for his part in the scandal, as well as a two-year ban from holding a leadership position.
The leadership ban has well-and-truly expired, resulting in Smith captaining the Test side again during the second Test of the Ashes series last year when Cummins was ruled out due to being a close contact of a Covid case. And the same will happen in Adelaide on Thursday with Cummins missing out.
"I don't think he was too far away," Smith said on Wednesday about Cummins. "With what's coming up with a big series against South Africa and Tests in India, there is a lot of cricket.
"From a strategic point of view, to have the possibility of going down and putting the load through the other quicks after they bowled some overs during the Perth Test. It would have been a risky decision to continue going, so I think we have made the right call."
According to Aussie great Mark Waugh, Smith deserves to be captain despite his chequered past. “Steve Smith, he’s vice-captain, so whenever Pat’s unavailable and needs to be rested for the odd game, the odd Test match because you’re going to have to rotate the fast bowlers at some stage, then you’ve got a ready replacement in Steve Smith - I don’t see an issue there," Waugh told Fox Sports.
While the controversy around Smith should be a thing of the past, some fans have expressed their unease at seeing him captaining Australia again.
Pat Cummins ruled out of second Test
Cummins completed light run-throughs on Tuesday evening. But with a very short turnaround before Thursday's second Test it was always unlikely the captain would recover in time.
"Team medical staff commenced Cummins' recovery in Adelaide but selectors deemed there was not sufficient time for the fast bowler to be fully fit for the match," Cricket Australia said in a statement.
Cummins is expected to be fit for the first Test against South Africa, which starts at the Gabba on December 17. After three Tests against the Proteas, Australia will head to India in February for a four-match series.
Boland's recall comes after he took 18 wickets at an average of 9.55 in the only three Test matches during last summer's Ashes series. Lance Morris and Michael Neser remain in the Aussie Test squad as back-up for Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, but are unlikely to be elevated to the XI.
Starc and Hazlewood bowled 45 and 43 overs respectively in Perth. The pacemen are likely to be rested at some stage during the summer.
"Bowling last and a short turn-around, put stress and strain on your bowling stock," Aussie coach Andrew McDonald said this week. "We know we've got other guys that are there ready and available. See how our guys pull up and then move from there.
"We've got to respect that, the short turn-around. At the moment as it sits they've pulled up well, both Josh and Mitch. Patty's obviously the major concern, and we erred on the side of caution with him."
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