Oz cricket captain uncertainty reflects Test preparation woes

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

MELBOURNE - Australian cricket is in a sorry state, and it is best summed up by the fact that Cricket Australia is not sure who is the best man to lead the Test side out of the doldrums brought on by consecutive Ashes series defeats.

With series against Sri Lanka, South Africa and India on the horizon, Australia need the right man in charge as they look to avoid a further drop down world cricket’s pecking order.

Currently, only 20.12 per cent of respondents taking part in a recent poll believe that current skipper Ricky Ponting is the right man for the job, Fox Sports reports.

Even more concerning is the lack of alternatives should Ponting’s reign come to an end.

Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke has won just 9.67 percent of the vote, and former Test skipper Kim Hughes says Clarke’s role in the side purely as a batsman has become untenable after he averaged 21.44 this summer.

The second-most popular man in our poll was Victoria skipper and new Australia Twenty20 captain Cameron White.

White was handed the Victoria captaincy at the age of 20, and it is widely acknowledged that he has one of the best cricketing brains in the country.

Just 27 years old, White is in the rare position of having a wealth of captaincy experience to his credit while still having a long career ahead of him.

However, a first-class average of 42.01 suggests White may struggle to find his feet at Test level - even though he is a damaging batsman in the shorter forms of the game.

White has just four Test matches to his name, as a spin bowler on Australia’s tour of India in 2008.

White’s ability with the ball has reached such depths that he is now reluctant to bowl himself at first-class level, his misguided Test career more the fault of national selectors than his own.

In any case, White first needs to be given a chance to establish himself in the Test XI as a batsman before captaincy can be discussed.

The same goes for Tasmania wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Paine, who has plenty of potential as a leader, but is unlikely to shift Brad Haddin as Australia’s No.1 glove man in the short term.

Playing both Paine and Haddin in the same side is an attractive option given the leadership potential of both players, but Paine has scored just one first-class century in 81 innings and will need to do more at state level to warrant selection as a batsman.

Haddin and all-rounder Shane Watson both bring a lot to the table as potential skippers, but mainly because they are two of the few current players certain to be in the XI in two years’ time.

Simon Katich and, to a lesser extent, Mike Hussey are also strong candidates, but both are aged 35 and would be viewed only as band-aid solutions.

While the cupboard is far from bare, no one is standing out from the pack to take on the role often described as the second-most important job in the country, behind that of Prime Minister.

As confidence in the side plummets to levels last experienced in the mid-1980s, picking the right man as captain is essential. (ANI)

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