Steven Smith © Getty Images
Steven Smith has grown in stature as a cricketer and is taken very seriously © Getty Images

Steven Smith has been named Australia’s captain for the remainder of the Test series against India. Smith has been appointed ahead of the 37-year-old Brad Haddin, the designated vice-captain. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes that this could be a good move keeping the long-term in perspective.

Go back to 2003. Under the shrewd leadership of Ricky Ponting, Australia made its dominant march to victory at the World Cup in South Africa. Ponting was a young captain with experience on his side — with phenomenal feats off his own bat to back it up. In Test cricket however, Adam Gilchrist was Steve Waugh’s deputy and had already led Australia in two Tests. But, putting a long term succession plan in place, Ponting was elevated to Test vice-captaincy. A year down the line, Ponting took over from Waugh with Gilchrist was named his deputy.

The scenario is somewhat similar in 2014. The Australian selectors have considered the larger perspective and have appointed Steven Smith as the Test captain for the remainder of the India series ahead of the stumper. Brad Haddin has been the vice-captain for some time and had led them on Day Five of the first Test against India following Michael Clarke’s injury. Most expected Haddin to lead in Brisbane and Smith’s elevation is surprising on some level.

Coming into this series, Haddin was touted to captain Australia in the scheduled first Test in Brisbane, with Clarke looking likely to miss out. He was the chosen man to lead the men in the game with the regular skipper out due to injury. Clarke also voiced his support for Haddin after he was ruled out of the India series. But, perhaps his recent form hasn’t been very encouraging to back him to lead Australia. Also, it isn’t clear as to how much longer can the 37-year-old continue. In the last six Tests, Haddin has not scored a fifty and has a highest score of 22.

Keeping that into perspective, appointing a younger captain makes complete sense as it would allow the team management to groom him for the future. George Bailey, the One-Day International (ODI) captain, has not been in the Test side since the Ashes 2013-14 and there are younger batsmen who have superseded him in the pecking order for Test berths. The only real candidates thereafter were Smith and David Warner — two young men who have epitomised the Australian youth on the field of play.

Both Warner and Smith have been consistent for quite some time. While Warner has been explosive at the top, Smith has been the anchor in the middle. Warner has played 10 more Tests than Smith and has had a longer run in the side. However, it seems that Smith’s maturity and tempered approach has won him the honour. Warner has matured since his run-ins in 2013, but in Smith they have found a more shrewd and intelligent customer.

Earlier this year, Rajasthan Royals had appointed Smith captain for one game. While that is not a parameter, it does show that Smith has grown in stature as a cricketer and is taken very seriously. With his gameplay across formats, Smith has shown craft and intelligence. Be it tapping Sunil Narine off the final ball of a Super Over to win a game, or flicking the pacers between his legs, Smith has shown good mental application on a consistent basis. Bring those good Test performances into play and you would back him to lead Australia some day.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)