Steve Smith can return to captain Australia, says skipper Tim Paine

Australian skipper Tim Paine lent his support to Steve Smith by replacing him as captain of the test team when the time came to change direction.

Paine succeeded Smith as captain in 2018 after the batsman was banned from international cricket for 12 months and suspended from his managerial role for two years for his role in the Newlands ball tampering scandal.

Smith said in March he would gladly return to captain if the opportunity arose, and Paine said he deserved to be considered.

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“I think so. Obviously I’m not making that decision, but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent,” Paine said in comments posted by Media News Corp Thursday.

“Certainly tactically he’s as good as you are.

“So obviously things have happened in South Africa and he’s not doing it anymore. But, yes, I would support him to get this job back.”

Former players and media experts have been pushing for master batsman Smith to be reinstated and called on Paine, 36, to step down after a 2-1 loss to severely exhausted India this summer at home.

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Paine has no plans to step down as captain, but has suggested he might be tempted to withdraw from the game if Australia dominate England in the 2021/22 Ashes.

“If I feel like the time is right and we beat the ‘Poms’ 5-0, what a way out,” he said.

“But it could be a close series and we could run 300 on the last day and I’m not at 100 and I haven’t hit the winning points – and then I could start over.”

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Few players have better credentials to succeed Paine than Smith, 31, but although his leadership ban expired in March 2020, he has been repeatedly overlooked for such roles.

Fast bowler Pat Cummins is vice-captain on the test side.

Australia Selectors chairman Trevor Hohns said in November that Smith would likely be a candidate to succeed Paine, but the Selectors had not discussed it.

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