The board of Cricket Australia will determine whether Steve Smith can return to the captaincy of the Australian men’s team at its next board meeting.
- Steve Smith said he was “keen” to be reconsidered for captain in an exclusive interview with News Limited
- Australian Cricket coach Justin Langer told ABC the captaincy position is not currently available
- Smith was stripped of the leadership role after a ball-tampering scandal in 2018
The Ticket has learned Smith’s future will be on the agenda as part of discussions around succession planning. Privately, the ABC understands some on the board have reservations.
This coincides with public comments from Smith that he is interested in a return to the captaincy after he was stripped of the leadership for his role in ‘sandpapergate’.
However, Australian cricket coach Justin Langer told ABC today:
“We have two very good captains and two important competitions coming up — an Ashes and a T20 World Cup. Our future looks good.
Smith’s talents as a cricketer are undeniable.
On the International Cricket Council’s all-time Test batting rankings, Smith sits at number two, behind the legendary Don Bradman – a worthy qualification to lead a national team.
But there are questions still being asked about Smith’s broader leadership qualities.
Following the ball-tampering scandal in a Test match against South Africa at Newlands in 2018 Cricket Australia commissioned The Ethics Centre to conduct an organisation-wide review.
In recapping the incident as part of the review’s introduction it states:
“A senior player, David Warner, led a more junior player, Cameron Bancroft, to apply sandpaper to the ball in order to induce swing.
“Those are the reported facts.”
The review discusses leadership throughout, pointing to the Cricket Australia board as the ultimate leader of the game in this country.
“The leadership of CA should also accept responsibility for its inadvertent (but foreseeable) failure to create and support a culture in which the will-to-win was balanced by an equal commitment to moral courage and ethical restraint.
The most basic interpretations of leadership speak of the ability to motivate a group of people to achieving a common goal, for example, winning a game.
A more sophisticated analysis of leadership, such as that referred to by The Ethics Centre, necessitates an ability to see a bigger picture, an understanding of consequence, a moral compass, and an ability to withstand group pressure should the situation demand it.
‘I’ve made strides’: Smith talks of life experience
In a remarkable coincidence, just as the Cricket Australia board prepares to discuss whether Smith has what is required to lead again, he is quoted in an exclusive interview with News Limited saying, “I’m keen”.
His quotes also appear to address the concerns of those who question whether his life experiences beyond cricket are enough to equip him with the critical judgment necessary to be a leader of men, not just a leader of cricket players.
“Before I was almost just solely cricket, and that was it,” he tells The Australian’s Ben Horne.
“Having more life experiences and learnings over the last couple of years, I feel like I would be in a better place as a teacher.
“I’ve made strides in that area of my life.”
Smith knows the stain of ‘sandpapergate’ will always be lurking in the background. He knows too that sports men and women are held to the highest standards and are not afforded the anonymity of some others who are allowed to learn from their mistakes in private.
So, the question of Smith’s suitability to return as captain of the national men’s team is actually a test of the leadership of the Cricket Australia board.
Again, The Ethics Centre review says:
“It is the unfortunate lot of a leader that he or she may sometimes be called upon to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
“Principled leadership of this kind is rare in contemporary society.
“Cricket has a chance to set a better example – and in doing so, to remediate much of the harm caused by the incident at Newlands.
“Whether or not it takes up this option is a matter for the individuals concerned to determine.”
It also carries a warning.
“We do not conclude that the culture of Australian cricket is built around the principle of ‘win at all costs.’
“The source of cricket’s problem is subtly, but importantly, different.
“Winning is pursued as a perfectly legitimate objective without counting the cost.”
There has been substantial change in the make-up of CA’s board since the review was handed down in October 2018, but the details contained within it remain as current as ever.
Steve Smith may well be a re-made man, with leadership qualities that extend beyond a cricket pitch.
But the first question to be asked by Cricket Australia is whether he is suitable to be reappointed to a team that was forced to overhaul its culture — focusing on winning, but not at all costs.