Captain Smith to lead from front

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Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Steven Smith wants to lead from the front as he takes over as Australia’s Test captain in the absence of the injured Michael Clarke.

The 25-year-old was on Monday promoted to the vice-captaincy, chosen ahead of the veteran Brad Haddin to lead Australia out against India in the second Test in Brisbane on Wednesday, with Cricket Australia indicating the decision was made with an eye on the future as Clarke’s injury woes put his long-term status in doubt.

Smith is the third youngest player in the squad to play at the Gabba and will be Australia’s youngest captain since Kim Hughes in the 1970s, but he promised not to let the added responsibilities change the way he approaches the game.

“I think first and foremost I will try to lead from the front in terms of my performances,” he said at a press conference. “The on-field tactics, I think we’ve been pretty good this year, ‘Pup’ (Clarke) has been amazing with that and what he’s got going on. With the group we’ve got going forward I don’t really feel there’s any need for a big change there.”

Smith, who made his Test debut as a spinner aged 20, was not even in the squad at the start of last year, but since coming back into the side he has established himself as one of the leading batsmen and his unbeaten innings of 162 and 52 in the 48-run victory over India in the first Test took his Test average to 46.03.

“It’s obviously been a pretty whirlwind 18 months for me personally, and for the team as well,” Smith said. “For this to come up so quickly, it’s an amazing thrill. It’s something that I’ve always dreamt of doing. To now have the opportunity to lead Australia in a Test match and the rest of this series, it’s an amazing thrill.”

Smith has captaincy experience with both New South Wales and the Sydney Sixers and is confident he can step up at Test level with the help of some of the senior players around him.

“When I’m just a player on the field I have my brain thinking as a captain all the time about the situation,” he said. “Sometimes I throw thoughts over to Michael or Brad (Haddin). I have had the leadership experience with New South Wales and the Sixers and have been quite successful. It is a different kettle of fish with Australia but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

For now, Smith has only been confirmed as the Test captain for the three remaining Tests against India, but his appointment is a statement on the part of Cricket Australia.

Haddin, 37, has served as Clarke’s vice-captain and was the straightforward choice to step in when the 33-year-old Clarke suffered a fresh hamstring problem on the final day of the fifth Test, having captained the side for the remainder of the final day.

But with Clarke himself admitting that the latest blow, when added to his ongoing back problems, leaves his future in doubt, Cricket Australia felt it needed to address the question of his long-term successor.

Pat Howard, Cricket Australia’s head of team performance, said: “This is a longer-term injury (for Clarke) and the panel have been very strong in showing their hand looking for a longer-term solution.

“The nature of Michael’s injury – and we’ll get a better prognosis in the next 24-48 hours – was a pretty big factor in making this decision.”

Haddin, 37, will serve as Smith’s vice-captain.

Smith said: “I’m extremely close to Brad and when I told him yesterday that (national selector Rod Marsh) called me, I think he knew what was going on. He’s over the moon for me, he’s proud as punch. I’m certainly going to look to Brad out there as Michael always does. He’s a terrific team man and he’s got a great cricket brain as well. He’s certainly someone I can lean on out in the middle as well.”

Published: Monday 15th December 2014 by The News Editor

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