'Not the right man': Michael Clarke's stunning Steve Smith captaincy snub

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Michael Clarke has called for Pat Cummins to be made captain of Australia in all three formats, sensationally declaring Steve Smith isn’t the right man to lead the national side.

Smith will be free to captain Australia again at the end of March once the two-year anniversary of the ball-tampering saga passes.

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There is no reason to suggest a leadership change would be likely anytime soon with both Test skipper Tim Paine and white-ball counterpart Aaron Finch performing well.

Smith is widely expected to get the nod should either of those men retire in the near future, but Clarke doesn’t think that’s a good idea.

“In sport in this country we have a sense of the best player needs to be the captain. I don’t agree with that, I think the best captain needs to be the captain,” Clarke said during his debut as co-host of Sky Sports’ Big Sports Breakfast on Monday.

Steve Smith and Michael Clarke during the 2015 Ashes series in England. (Photo by Ben Radford/Corbis via Getty Images)

“In saying that, I think Steve Smith is Australia’s best batsman but I don’t necessarily think he’s the right man to captain Australia.

“For Australian cricket right now, the position they’re in, I think they need one captain across all three formats.

“So again, no disrespect to Aaron Finch, he’s done a wonderful job, but at the end of this T20 World Cup in November this year, I think it could be the right time for him to stand down as well and in my opinion, Pat Cummins (should) take over the captaincy across all three formats.”

Clarke said he’s seen enough leadership qualities from Cummins to tell him he’s the man for the job.

“Pat has showed that he’s fit, he’s healthy, he can play all three formats. His body has now matured into a position where he’ll be on the field as much as any batsman,” Clarke said.

Michael Clarke and Steve Smith at the 2015 World Cup. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

“I don’t think he shouldn’t get the opportunity because of that (injury fears). He reads the game really well — yes he’s an opening bowler but he can bat, he’s brilliant in the field, he sees the game how a captain needs to see the game.

“It might take him a bit of time but that’s where he’s got those senior players — Steve Smith, David Warner, Nathan Lyon — there’s other guys around him that can actually support him.”

Smith not fussed on captaincy

The 35-year-old Paine is thought to be keen to lead Australia to the inaugural world Test championship final at Lord's midway through next year.

Finch, 33, has back-to-back T20 World Cups ahead in Australia later this year and India in 2021, with the next 50-over World Cup due in 2023.

Smith took over as captain of the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League midway through last season and has assumed the role permanently for the upcoming season.

He will also lead the Welsh Fire in the inaugural season of The Hundred in the UK later in the year.

But after top-scoring for Australia in their ODI defeat to South Africa in Paarl, Smith downplayed the prospect of one day returning to the national captaincy.

“I'm pretty chilled to be honest,” he said.

“I'm just enjoying playing and being amongst the boys. It's been really good.

“The guys are doing a terrific job, Finchy and Painey. I'll support them any way I can and help the team have success and hopefully score some more runs and do my job that way.”