Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On the Australian Captaincy

Steve Waugh has recently questioned the Australian selection panel in regards to their handling of the captaincy and of ousted wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.  He is well within his right to, considering his personal achievements and stature in the game.

Up until Ricky Ponting - the man whose temporary institution he contests - the opinions of most Australian captains are considered continuing testament to the spirit of cricket.  It speaks volumes of the man that Waugh's thoughts are said to represent the spirit of the game moreso than any of his contemporaries.

While Brad Haddin has reasons to be aggrieved regarding his "resting", Waugh's comments regarding the Warner/Ponting captaincy dichotomy are far from accurate.

Cricket Australia, especially post-Argus, has several structures in place to ensure strong leadership.  Although these structures are in place for a reason - in this case, ostensibly Warner's education - the fact is that he doesn't command the tactical respect of his comrades.  While Ponting's tenure could hardly be described as strong (c.f. Fabio Capello) he still inspires ultimate respect both as a cricketer and as a cricket brain.

The fact is there is no clear leader emerging to succeed Clarke.  There needs not be at this point, as the Australian captain is 30 and with several years of high-class cricket in front of him.  A second statement could be equally true: there is no need for a clear leader to emerge with Clarke at least five years from retirement.  This is especially true considering his reign as le dauphin could quite accurately be said to have destabilised the Australian team rather than the intended opposite.

Indeed there is somewhat of a leadership vacuum in those players of Clarke's vintage.  George Bailey, Andrew McDonald and Cameron White fail to command a place on form, while a possible logical successor, Steve O'Keeffe, is yet to make his mark on the national team.  Warner, who captains the Big Bash's Sydney Thunder, is the best of those in the current framework: a guy who regularly looks to hook wide bumpers the first ball after drinks breaks.

By extension, Ponting is the best candidate for the job - especially now Clarke has cemented his authority.  There should be no quibbling about the next generation or confusing structures, but the captaincy is such an award we should be careful to whom it is awarded.  It needs to reward for effort and talent, not a prize given for potential.  Do we want to be like England of the 1980s, where the likes of Chris Cowdrey fronted up to toss the coin?

Although Warner has achieved much in the past six months, he does not deserve - yet - the honour of leading his country in what was once the world's leading form of cricket.

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