The countdown has begun for the Ashes as the opening Test match, set to take place in Brisbane, is less than three months away now. Australia will look to retain ‘the urn’, which they have kept since thrashing England 4-0 in 2017-18. Steve Smith, who was the leader of the pack for the Aussies back then, returned from his international ban to play a stellar role in the next Ashes series in England, which ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw.
The upcoming series will be a chance for Joe Root and his England side to redeem themselves and improve their record down under. But the English camp has been marred with uncertainty as question marks remain over the availability of players as they are wary of the strict coronavirus protocols in Australia and the hardships of the bubble-life.
On the other hand, there are issues in the Australian camp too regarding the availability of Test skipper Tim Paine, who recent underwent an invasive neck surgery. Paine has said that the surgery went well. The 36-year-old wicket-keeper batsman is eyeing a six-week recovery period and has sounded confident to be back ahead of the Ashes.
But that has not stopped former Aussie cricketers from looking for alternatives. Paine has been under tremendous pressure since Australia’s home series defeat against India at the beginning of the year and many feel the clock is ticking for him.
Former Australia captain Mark Taylor is of the opinion that Steve Smith can be brought back to lead the team, although paceman Pat Cummins is the designated vice-captain of the team.
“I wouldn’t rule out Steve Smith to come back and captain Australia. I think enough time, enough water has gone under the bridge since 2018 and what happened in South Africa,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“Pat Cummins would certainly be in the pole position given he’s the vice captain at the moment. I think Australia have options. I was absolutely surprised about the Tim Paine news,” Taylor added.
Paine took over the reins of the team during a difficult period as Australia were coming out of the ball-tampering controversy, which led to Steve Smith and David Warner getting banned for a year. Paine has so far led the Aussies in 23 Tests, winning 11 and losing 8. He has lost back-to-back home series against India.
Smith has a better record as captain, having won 18 of the 34 matches in charge and losing only 10.
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