Although Australia emerged victorious in the first Test at Adelaide, they were dealt with a massive blow during the course of the Test as skipper Michael Clarke has been ruled out of the remainder of the matches of the series owing to his hamstring problem. He was already struggling with a recurring back problem, and almost did not play the Test. Even during the first innings of the Test, he had to retire hurt midway through the innings. Post the match, Clarke candidly admitted that his international career is on its last legs, and that there is every possibility that he might not play for his country again. A very big blow to the Aussies indeed.
Following the developments pertaining to the unavailability of Clarke, the Australian selectors had two options when it came to handing over the leadership to someone else from the team -- Brad Haddin, who is the vice captain of the side, and led the team in Clarke's absence on the field on the final day. The other player's name doing the rounds was Steven Smith, who is just 25 years old, and much junior to Haddin in terms of age as well as experience. Still, the Australian selectors have chosen to go with the latter as leader for the remainder of the India Tests. And, it must be said that the Aussie selectors have made a brave move in choosing the next captain.
Logically, the vice captain often takes over as the leader of the side. But, the Aussies have decided to go in with Smith, and that is understandable since he is a young and an upcoming batsman. The handing over of leadership is actually a reward for Smith for his wonderful performances in recent years. Both in Tests and one-dayers, Smith has been Australia's most consistent batsman over the last couple of years. Even in the Adelaide Test, he came up with a wonderful hundred and a fifty to further improve his career stats. Clearly, Smith is on the verge of becoming one of Australia's best players in the years to come.
The decision to hand over the leadership to Smith is a clear indication that the selectors are looking towards the future as far as captaincy is concerned. Logically, the vice-captain takes over in such a situation. But, Haddin is now 37, and does not have much time left as far as his international career is concerned. He has done a reasonable job as deputy to Clarke, and should continue to do so as long as he plays Tests. Smith, on the other hand, is very young, and is still learning the tricks of the trade. He could be groomed into the job nicely. Considering Clarke's injury, Smith might have to take over the role of full-time captain very soon.
The journey from fringe player to captain has been rather swift for Smith. He began as a leg spinner, batting at number eight, but has become a wonderful batsman in all formats of the game. His consistency has been amazing, and he will only improve with every game he plays. Smith may not have the experience of leading the side, but he has captained domestic sides to victories, and would like to build on the same. He should be given time to work on his skills. Australia would hope his batting only flourishes as he takes over the leadership role. It is a massive honour for Smith, one he should be extremely proud of, and which he deserves.
--By A Cricket Analyst