Tim Paine has offered a glowing endorsement for Steve Smith and his hopes of regaining the captaincy of Australia's Test cricket side.
The question of whether Smith will regain the captaincy of the Test team continues to gnaw at Australian cricket, more than three years after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa that saw him ousted in the first place.
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Paine was thrust into arguably the most scrutinised role in Australian sport and by most accounts, has done a tremendous job both leading the side and helping Cricket Australia restore its damaged reputation.
However, the current Aussie skipper turns 37 during a home Ashes series against England at the end of year, and he's understandably been considering how much longer to play on.
While Smith is happy in his role as one of the senior figures in the Test side, he's made no secret of his desire to captain the side again.
Crucially for Smith, the current skipper - who has 11 wins and four draws in his 23 matches as captain - thinks the 31-year-old deserves another chance.
“I think so. Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent. Certainly tactically he is as good as you get,” Paine said at a function for the Chappell Foundation at the SCG on Wednesday night.
“He’s probably a bit like me when I was at the start of my captaincy journey in Tasmania — he was thrown into a very big role at a very, very young age and he probably wasn’t quite ready for it.
“But by the time I came in he was growing into that role and getting better and better. Then obviously South Africa events happened and he’s not doing it anymore. But yeah I would support him getting that job again.”
Skipper hints at exit strategy
Paine's comments drew widespread applause from those in attendance at the function, before he revealed plans to remain captain for "at least another six Tests," in a possible hint at a succession plan.
“If I feel like the time is right and we’ve beaten the Poms 5-0, what a way to go out. But it might be a tight series and we might be chasing 300 on the last day and I’m 100 not out and hit the winning runs — and then I might go again.”
Paine's immediate focus will be on that Ashes series as well as a one-off Hobart Test against Afghanistan, starting in November.
The Aussie skipper still has India's series victory in Australia fresh in his mind, and admits his side let the tourists distract them from the task at hand.
“Part of the challenge of playing against India is they’re very good at niggling you and trying to distract you with stuff that doesn’t really matter and there were times in that series where we fell for that,” he said.
“The classic example was when they said they weren’t going to the Gabba so we didn’t know where we were going. They’re very good at creating these sideshows and we took our eye off the ball.”
Aussie great's gripe with Test side
Former Test captain Steve Waugh said this week that the Aussies got too carried away trying to plan for every possible scenario during the India series.
In an interview for the Road to the Ashes podcast, Waugh said it was crucial for Paine and the rest of the team's leaders to be more flexible under pressure.
"You’re planning so much these days, and have all these set plans," Waugh told the Fox Cricket podcast.
"When it doesn’t work out, you mightn’t have that Plan B or Plan C, or the one that’s a bit out of the box and left-field thinking.
“That was possibly needed by Australia in a few of the matches they should’ve won.
“Maybe we relied too much on the quartet of amazing bowlers and sometimes those guys get tired."
Waugh was confident getting back to basics and playing an 'intuitive, instinctive' style of cricket would do wonders.
The former Test skipper added that the key to Australia's success during the team's heyday throughout the 1990s and 2000s was a general reluctance to overcomplicate matters.
“When (Plan A) doesn’t work you sort of forget about those intuitive instinctive moments that sometimes you need to win a Test match – and potentially we’ve probably missed out on that over the last 12 months," he said.
“If you’re going well, I thought there’s no point in tinkering with it too much – just let it roll along and don’t overanalyse.
“That was one of the keys to our success when we won a lot of Ashes series, that we didn’t have too many meetings.”
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