Australia coach Justin Langer heaped praise on Test captain Tim Paine, while downplaying the talk about Steve Smith returning to the helm after the end of his Cricket Australia-imposed leadership ban.
Paine has endured some tough times while in charge. In his first full series in the role, Australia lost 1-0 to Pakistan in two Tests in the United Arab Emirates, and later suffered the setback of becoming the first captain from the country to lose a series at home against India.
But things have begun looking up for him since then. Australia beat Sri Lanka 2-0 at home and then became the first Australian side to retain the Ashes in England since 2001, courtesy a hard-fought 2-2 draw. Langer was all praise for the captain, though he acknowledged that the 35-year-old had scope for improvement.
Langer even indicated that the Tasmania wicket-keeper batsman had earned the right to determine how long he wanted to continue in his current capacity, and that the end of Smith’s leadership suspension, which he earned for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal, in March 2020 will have no bearing on Paine’s spot in the team.
“Tim Paine is doing a brilliant job at the moment, he’s been outstanding in his time as captain,” Langer told ABC Grandstand. “However long he wants to keep playing for, that’s another thing. I’m sure, like all these things, it’ll get worked out when the timing’s right.
“The beauty of Tim Paine is he will keep getting better. Even at his age, with his youthful enthusiasm, he’s got lots of areas he can improve, and that’s heartening for him and for us. At the moment, he’s doing a great job.”
Langer also pondered whether handing the captaincy over to Smith when Paine does step down would be a wise move at all. While Smith is the best Test batsman in the world at the moment, he is also a star in the limited-overs line-ups for Australia.
He featured prominently for Australia over their extended English summer, which comprised the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, followed by the Ashes. By the end of the Tests, during which he piled on 774 runs at an astounding average of 110.57, Smith admitted to feeling exhausted. Langer is worried that the added pressure of captaincy may weigh Smith down further.
“We have to work out what’s best, I mean you saw how exhausted he was [at the end of the Ashes] from the effort he puts into his batting. Whether he wants the burden of captaincy as well, that’ll have to be something we work out over time.”