No issues with Smith returning to captaincy: Ponting
Steve Smith's leadership ban ends in March 2020. (AFP Image)

Former captain Ricky Ponting doesn’t mind Steve Smith returning as the leader of the Australia cricket team once his ban expires. Ponting’s remarks came when an animated Smith was seen discussing plans with current captain Tim Paine during England’s second innings on Day 3 of the first Ashes Test. Smith’s hands-on approach in devising strategies with his teammates triggered reactions, which Ponting termed a “load of rubbish”.

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“I read a bit of that stuff this morning, with people online going on about the fact he shouldn’t be doing it because he’s not captain,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. “That’s an absolute load of rubbish. He’s not captain. He’s not tossing the coin and he’s not picking the team. But an experienced guy like him with a cricket brain that he’s got, Tim would be silly to not try and tap into that and not try to use him when he can.

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“He’s served his time as far as his playing suspension goes and everyone knows he can’t captain again until next year. He’s part of a team that is relying on him heavily for his experience, so he can help in whichever way and wherever he possibly can. And I’m sure if Painey or anyone around the team wasn’t happy with it, then it wouldn’t be happening.”

Paine took over as captain during Australia’s tour of UAE last year which they lost 0-1. In December, Australia were defeated at home by India for the first time in 71 years raising further questions over Paine’s captaincy. Smith is currently banned from leadership role for another eight months but Ponting personally has no issues with Paine’s predecessor taking over when the suspension expires in March 2020.

“I haven’t really thought about, but personally I wouldn’t have any problem with it at all,” he said.

“If the hierarchy at Cricket Australia have an issue with him ever being captain again, they would have given him a life ban, wouldn’t they? By banning him for just an extra 12 months, they think it’s OK for him to come back. So if the authorities think it’s OK, I’m happy with it as well.”

That said, Ponting backed Paine to come good in the Ashes. Paine’s batting has been the most prolific since he took over as captain with just one half-century in four innings. With a red-hot Alex Carey waiting in the wings, Paine could well be under the pump to prove his batting credentials. Calling Paine the best wicketkeeper in the world, Ponting believes the Australia skipper’s best comes when against adversity.

“He’s the best wicketkeeper in the world… and his first job in the team is to keep wicket and do a good job as captain,” Ponting said. “When you watch him bat, it’s always been the case with Painey; he looks a million dollars and probably doesn’t score as many runs as people would like him to.

“But he’s a tough and determined character and when things get at their toughest is when he plays his best. With this Test match pretty much on the line he might be a significant part of these couple of hours (early on day four). I’m backing him every day of the week. He loves the challenge and for his team’s sake hopefully he can get the job done.”