Steve Smith is once again eligible to captain Australia after completing his sanction for his part in the Newlands ball-tampering scandal.
Smith was banned from all Australian professional cricket for a year and from leadership roles for a further year after that, and has now served his time.
Tim Paine and Aaron Finch were named Australia’s Test and ODI captains in Smith’s absence and have each had successes in their roles. Paine led Australia to a first successful Ashes defence in England since 2001 and is rated as having restored national pride in a side for whom the fans’ respect was ebbing, while Finch has excelled with bat in hand, making five hundreds and averaging 47.90 as captain, and saw Australia to a better-than-expected semi-final berth at the World Cup, though their title defence ended with a chastening defeat to England.
However, age could well count against the pair. Finch is 33 and Paine 35 years old, and with future international engagements in doubt due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, it might be that Australia consider the opportunity perfect for a reversion to Smith’s previous role when cricket does resume.
Smith averages significantly more as captain than not as captain – 70.36 to 56.63 – though his stretch not as skipper also includes the period when Smith was still establishing himself in the side. Back in the ranks last summer, Smith put in one of the great individual series performances in the Ashes, making three centuries and three half-centuries to ensure Australia retained the urn.