The Best Captain, Who Is Not The Captain.
Australia in India: Not for the first time, off-spinner Nathan Lyon has torn the heart out of the Indian batting lineup to put Australia on the verge of a famous victory , earning his second-best Test figures in the process.
One doesn't know if the term 'match-winning captaincy' is a thing, but Steve Smith sure served up an example of it in the Indore Test. In the process, he showed yet again that he is a natural in the leadership role, 'SandpaperGate' controversy notwithstanding. Australian cricketer may have paid a heavy price by denying him the top job for so long, except in situations where he stands in for Pat Cummins, like in the third test here, and proves all over again how good he is tactically compared to the regular skipper.
Smith's captaincy here on a difficult surface has been pinpoint accurate, his choosing of ends for specific bowlers praiseworthy, and the constant shuffling of his band of merry men in catching positions designed to stifle opposition batters. Even his use of the DRS has been generally confident. Pace legend Glenn McGrath hinted a few days back that "batters should always be captains", and Australia do have a long tradition of making their best batter a leader.
Smith has now led Australia to more Test wins in India than Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh, Allan Border and Michael Clarke. He is among only five Australian captains to win two or more Tests on Indian soil. Bill Lawry leads the list with three wins, while Richie Beanud, Adam Gilchrist, Ian Johnson and Smith have two each. This is August company indeed and shows the extent of difficulty when it comes to winning a test in India.
Australia have won two Tests in India over the past decade, and it is no coincidence both have come with Smith at the helm. Now, the clamour for Smith to be made full-time captain will only increase. Matthew Hayden has been vocal on air about Smith's inspired and on-point leadership. "There is a confidence with him at the helm", he said. Nathan Lyon said on Day 2 of the Test how his " Old mate" Smith had brought out the best in him.
On Friday, Smith dismissed suggestions he was looking for a full time role but did say he enjoyed being captain. "My time is done. It is Pat's team now. I am glad I have been able to stand in this week in the circumstances with Patty going home ", he said. " India is a part of the world where I love captaining. It is a game of chess, every ball means something. It's good fun moving people and trying to get the batter to think, just play games with them. It's probably my favorite place in the world to captain. Smith's good fun can herald more good times for Australia. Now, if only forgiveness was a thing.
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