Home Sport ‘Sandpaper gate’ accused Steve Smith back as Australia captain … for now

‘Sandpaper gate’ accused Steve Smith back as Australia captain … for now

By Ian Ransom

Melbourne – More than four years on from the Newlands ball-tampering scandal, Steve Smith has shelved his ambitions of regaining the Australia captaincy full-time but will gladly step in this week as the hosts look to whitewash West Indies at Adelaide Oval.

For the second Adelaide test in succession, Smith will captain the side in place of regular skipper Pat Cummins on Thursday as the fast bowler rests with a quadricep strain.

Last year, Smith slotted in for the Ashes test against England when Cummins was ruled out by Covid-19 protocols. It proved a seamless transition as Smith scored 93 in the first innings, took six catches overall and led Australia to a 275-run win and a 2-0 series lead.

A year later, Smith will hope to lead Australia to a 2-0 series sweep against the Caribbeans and extend his nation’s perfect record with the pink ball to 10 day-night test wins.

“I have to do it my own way,” Smith told reporters on Wednesday at Adelaide Oval.

“I took over for the game here last year and I thought it worked out pretty smoothly. So, same again.”

Having succeeded Michael Clarke as test captain in 2015, Smith was stripped of the rank over ‘Sandpaper-gate’ in 2018 and banned from leadership positions for three years.

After the ban expired in March 2021, Smith was overlooked for the captaincy in favour of Cummins when Tim Paine stepped down last year over a ‘sexting’ scandal.

Smith has since been snubbed again for the one-day captaincy, also awarded to Cummins in October following Aaron Finch’s retirement from the format.

T20 skipper Finch’s future remains up in the air after Australia failed to reach the semi-finals of their home World Cup but Smith has learned not to get his hopes up.

“Pretty much, yeah. I’m pretty chilled so, whenever they want me to stand in and do a game here or there I’m more than happy to,” he said.

“But yeah, Patty’s the man. I’ll help him and support him in any way that I can.”

Last year it was Kane Richardson stepping into Cummins’ bowling shoes but this time it will be Victoria quick Scott Boland, who was plucked from obscurity to become a cult hero during the home Ashes.

Australia’s second Indigenous Australian to play tests, Boland picked up 18 wickets in three Ashes matches but has not been seen since Hobart in January.

“It’s a nice replacement,” said Smith.

“I think he averages about 10 in test cricket … I’m sure he’ll do another magnificent job for us.”

Despite the margin of defeat in Perth, West Indies were far from embarrassed, holding out until well into day five with a defiant century from captain Kraigg Brathwaite.

They will need to find a way to take more wickets after picking up only six for the whole Perth match as Smith and run-machine Marnus Labuschagne went big with the bat.

With the possibility of forced changes, West Indies have a mountain to climb.

Both Kemar Roach and fellow quick Jayden Seales are nursing injuries, while all-rounder Kyle Mayers has a shoulder problem and is unlikely to bowl.