Australian captain Tim Paine has addressed speculation over whether Steve Smith will again lead the team once a ban ends in March, saying he would be fully supportive if it happens "one day". Steve Smith skippered the team until he was suspended for 12 months over a brazen attempt under his watch to alter the ball with sandpaper in Cape Town last year. Part of his punishment included a further year-long exile from any leadership role. Calls have grown for Steve Smith to take over from Tim Paine when the ban is lifted, following batting performances that helped Australia retain the Ashes against England.
Tim Paine, who will turn 35 in December, on Monday brushed off questions surrounding the Australian side's future leadership. "I'm enjoying having the job at the moment... and I certainly hope Steve Smith does captain Australia again one day, and if he does, I'll be fully supportive of it," he told the Daily Telegraph.
Tim Paine will not play in this summer's Big Bash League, instead of joining broadcaster Channel Seven's commentary team. But he will almost certainly retain the captaincy for the home summer Test series against Pakistan and New Zealand, despite occasional criticism of his form during the Ashes. Tim Paine recently ended a 13-year century drought by scoring his first ton since his maiden century as a 21-year-old in 2006. Coach Justin Langer has praised his leadership as "brilliant" and said Steve Smith may not want to take on the "burden" of the captaincy on top of batting pressures.
Justin Langer said he was "doing a brilliant job at the moment". "He's been outstanding in his time as captain. However long he wants to keep playing for is another thing," he added. Unlike Steve Smith, former vice-captain David Warner endured a miserable return from the "sandpaper gate" scandal, struggling to make double figures against England. But Justin Langer said he still had confidence in the explosive opener, who returned to form with a century for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield last week. "He had a poor series against England, no doubt. That's just a fact, and he knows that" Justin Langer said. "But he also hasn't lost his talent, because he was the highest run-scorer in the World Cup two weeks before the Ashes started, and he was the highest run-scorer in the IPL (Indian Premier League) before that. So he can bat. "The other thing about David Warner, my experience tells me that you never write off champion players. And he's a champion player."