SYDNEY: Steve Smith’s ban on leading Australia ends in March but the star batsman may not want the Test captaincy back, head coach Justin Langer says.

Smith skippered the team until he was suspended for 12 months over a brazen attempt to alter the ball with sandpaper under his watch in Cape Town last year.

Part of his punishment included a further year-long exile from any leadership role.

Calls have grown for Smith to take over from Tim Paine when the ban is lifted since his incredible batting performances hel­ped Australia retain the Ashes against England.

But Langer said it was not a simple decision, with Smith admitting his exploits — 774 runs in just seven innings — left him mentally and physically shattered.

“I’ve built a good relationship with Steve over the last 18 months, and it (the captaincy) is going to come down to honest conversations,” the coach told the Australian Broad­casting Corporation on Saturday. “You can see how exhausted he was from the effort he put into his batting [during the Ashes], and whether he wants the burden of captaincy as well is something we’ll have to work out over time.

“I’ll be one of the selectors, and I think we’ll just work out what’s best.”

Paine, who will be 35 in December, will almost certainly retain the role for the home summer Test series against Pakistan and New Zealand, despite occasional criticism of his batting and captaincy during the Ashes.

Langer said he was ‘doing a brilliant job at the moment’.

“He’s been outstanding in his time as captain. However long he wants to keep playing for is another thing,” he added.

Unlike Smith, former vice-captain David Warner endured a miserable return from the ‘sandpapergate’ scandal, struggling to make double figures against England.

But Langer said he still had confidence in the explosive opener, who returned to form with a century for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield last week.

“He had a poor series against England, no doubt. That’s just a fact, and he knows that,” Langer said.

“But he also hasn’t lost his talent, because he was the highest run scorer in the World Cup two weeks before the Ashes started, and he was the highest run scorer in the IPL [Indian Premier League] before that. So he can bat.

“The other thing about David Warner, my experience tells me that you never write off champion players. And he’s a champion player.”

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019

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