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Steven Smith’s Australia vice-captaincy may not be universally popular, but it makes sense

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Despite being only “a heartbeat away” from the United States Presidency, John Nance Garner, Vice-President under Franklin D. Roosevelt, once described his job as “not worth a bucket of warm piss”.

There will be some in Australia who feel the same way about Steven Smith‘s leadership with the anger of ‘Sandpaper-gate’ and what he supposedly did to the once sacred office of Australia Test captain still fresh in their minds.

But as of today, Smith has become one of the most powerful vice-captains in Australian Test history and is only a hamstring away from the top job once more.

Pat Cummins‘ appointment as Australia’s 47th Test captain, while widely heralded, comes with the knowledge that fast bowlers are fragile. And while Cummins has played in Australia’s last 20 consecutive Test matches and 33 of the last 35, he did miss 64 after his debut as an 18-year-old due to an endless string of injuries.

Australia have rifled through Test vice-captains in the last three years since Smith was last captain, with Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head and Cummins himself all taking turns in a game of musical chairs with Cricket Australia feeling safe in the knowledge that nobody would have to step in at short notice. But the time has come for Cummins and they have appointed Smith as his deputy knowing full well he is likely to be called upon to lead again.

There will be a great many who feel uncomfortable about this fact, especially given he has ascended to the role after his successor, Tim Paine, has resigned in different yet equally ignominious circumstances.

But the fact that Cummins has handpicked Smith as his deputy, adamant that he needs Smith’s experience and guidance, is a sure sign of how far Smith has come. He is not the 26-year-old batting virtuoso who knew nothing but cricket when he was first appointed permanently in 2015, nor is he the 28-year-old burnt-out leader of 2018 who had become isolated from his teammates, and subconsciously or otherwise a little threatened by vice-captain David Warner’s performance as T20I skipper.

Smith is now 32 and has learned some of the harshest lessons any cricketer could ever be made to learn about leadership and life in general.

It would take the coldest of hearts and narrowest of minds to think that he hasn’t learned from those experiences and isn’t better for them. Team-mates speak of him in a different light now. Heading back into the rank and file of the Australian team has been good for his soul. He has become a more willing participant in the fun and frivolity in the rooms. The experiences of Cape Town, and to a far lesser degree but significant in its own way, not being the best player in the T20 World Cup winning side, has taught him humility and given him a different perspective on what the team needs from him.

Smith noted as much when he spoke alongside Cummins after his appointment.

This will be a tightrope for Smith to walk, to do the job his captain asks of him without making the team feel like there are two skippers out there at once pulling the ship in different directions

“I’m truly honoured,” Smith said. “I think there’ll be some negativity from some people around it. I understand that and I get that. But for me, I know that I’ve grown a great deal over the last three or four years. I’m a more rounded individual. And in turn, I think it’s turned me into a better leader and I’m excited to be in this position next to Patrick.”

Smith is the most experienced Australian vice-captain in terms of leadership credentials since Adam Gilchrist was Ricky Ponting’s deputy. The power dynamics between captain and vice-captain have been sources of tension within the Australian rooms ever since. Michael Clarke’s relationship with Ponting, and then his own relationship with Shane Watson, as well as Smith and Warner’s dynamic all prime examples.

Australia’s philosophy on the vice-captaincy has been to use it to develop young leaders. But having aspiring leaders in the role can often be problematic.

Vice-captaincy isn’t a warm bucket of you know what, but it is a very unusual role in a cricket team. While they are officially a leader, the job requires subtlety and subservience. Vice-captain’s need to lead without undermining the captain. They need to be a conduit between the players and the captain while appearing to side with both. It requires emotional intelligence as much as tactical nous, and ego must be checked at the door.

It is a role that Smith can do better than anyone currently in the team. Having led Australia 93 times in all formats and 34 times in Test matches he knows better than anyone what a captain needs from his deputy and what a team needs from theirs.

But Smith has a greater challenge in that Cummins has asked him to be “an elevated vice-captain”. Cummins knows his role as the team’s talismanic fast bowler will require all his energy at times and has already declared that Smith will be called upon like no Australian vice-captain has been before, to make tactical decisions and bowling changes while the captain is on the field.

This will be a tightrope for Smith to walk, to do the job his captain asks of him without making the team feel like there are two skippers out there at once pulling the ship in different directions.

“I’m completely guided by Patrick and whatever he needs out on the field,” Smith said. “That’s my job. If there’s times where Patrick hands to me and wants me to take over and do some different things out in the field, I’m there for that. My job is just to support Patrick as much as I can and ensure that you know, we’re getting the best out of the team.”

It will be a high-wire act, and there will be a great many waiting for the fall.

But as another US President Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, once said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

Steve Smith is now back in the leadership arena.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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WI vs Eng, 2022 – Jason Roy returns to action with 36-ball hundred ahead of West Indies T20Is

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England signalled his fitness by smashing 115 off 47 in a warm-up match ahead of the T20I series against West Indies

England 231 for 4 (Roy 115, Vince 40*) beat Barbados Cricket Association President’s XI 137 for 11 (Springer 36, Mills 3-25) by 94 runs

Jason Roy marked his return to fitness by hitting a 36-ball hundred – and 115 off 47 overall – in England’s warm-up match against a BCA President’s XI at Kensington Oval.
Roy has not played any cricket since tearing his left calf muscle during England’s final Super 12s game of the T20 World Cup against South Africa in November when he collapsed in pain after running a single and was carried off the pitch.

But his onslaught, which contained nine fours and ten sixes, signalled his fitness ahead of the five-match T20I series that starts on Saturday and will be staged in Barbados in its entirety.



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Recent Match Report – ENG Women vs AUS Women 1st T20I 2021/22

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Meg Lanning said while her side had undergone some enforced changes, she was confident in their make-up

Toss Australia chose to bowl vs England

Australia opted to field in the first T20I against England in Adelaide, the opening match of the 2022 Women’s Ashes.

Grace Harris has been recalled to cover for Mooney’s absence and is listed in the middle order, while legspinner Alana King will make her debut for the home side, who are without the injured Georgia Wareham and Sophie Molineux.
Maia Bouchier will play just her third T20I for England after she impressed during the warm-ups. Part of England’s senior Ashes squad, she top-scored with 27 for England A in the second T20 warm-up, both of which were won by the A side.

Lanning, the Australia captain, said while her side had undergone some enforced changes, she was confident in their make-up.

“It’s a belter of a wicket, it always is at Adelaide Oval,” Lanning told the host broadcaster. “We feel like we’ve got a different look but hopefully we’ve got all bases covered.”

Heather Knight said she would have also opted to bowl, had she won the toss.

Making up the multi-format series, three T20Is in Adelaide will be followed by a Test in Canberra, then three ODIs – the first in Canberra and two in Melbourne. Two points will be awarded for victory in each of the limited-overs matches, with the Test worth four points for the win.

Australia: 1 Alyssa Healy (wk), 2 Meg Lanning (capt), 3 Tahlia McGrath, 4 Rachael Haynes, 5 Ashleigh Gardner, 6 Grace Harris, 7 Nicola Carey, 8 Jess Jonassen, 9 Alana King, 10 Tayla Vlaeminck, 11 Megan Schutt

England: 1 Tammy Beaumont, 2 Danni Wyatt, 3 Heather Knight (capt), 4 Nat Sciver, 5 Amy Jones, 6 Sophia Dunkley, 7 Maia Bouchier, 8 Katherine Brunt, 9 Sophie Ecclestone, 10 Sarah Glenn, 11 Freya Davies

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Australia top ICC Test rankings after Ashes win, India slip to third place

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South Africa move up a spot to fifth place after beating India; New Zealand retain second spot

Australia have overtaken India and New Zealand to reclaim the No. 1 ICC Test rankings spot after their 4-0 Ashes win at home, pushing India down to third spot. South Africa’s 2-1 win over India at home took them one spot up to fifth place, whereas New Zealand retained their second position.

New Zealand, the inaugural WTC winners, remained in second place after their 1-1 drawn series at home against Bangladesh, which included the hosts’ first ever loss to Bangladesh at home across formats.

Pakistan went down one spot to sixth place, whereas Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland retained their positions.



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