Faced with the task of rebuilding an Australia team laid low by Ashes failure, Steven Smith’s short apprenticeship under the captaincy of Michael Clarke is to come to an end with the fifth and final Test at The Oval.
In Clarke, captain-in-waiting Smith has the perfect sounding board on how to lift a team out of the doldrums, but he will not have the benefit of the 34-year-old’s experience at close hand in the dressing room.
Following Australia’s calamitous 2010-2011 Ashes loss on home soil under Ricky Ponting, Clarke was also the inheritor of a demoralized team, having served a lengthy apprenticeship as vice captain.
However, while Ponting stayed on under Clarke for the better part of two seasons, Smith will have to rely largely on his own wits.
The 26-year-old has already had a taste of leadership, having replaced Clarke as captain for three Tests of the home series against India, but taking over a team in major transition will be a whole new ball game.
“Nothing is confirmed yet either with anything, in regards to the captaincy, but if it works out that way and I am the next captain, then it’s a lot of responsibility,” Smith told Australian media in Nottingham, England.
“There’s obviously a few guys on this tour, the senior players that haven’t been taking part in the last couple of games,” Smith said. “So it’s always tough when you lose those guys, but I think it’s exciting for Australian cricket, we’re going to have some younger guys coming through.”
Smith’s team is certain to have a different complexion when it embarks on a two-Test tour of Bangladesh in October.
Apart from Clarke and paceman Ryan Harris, who suffered a knee injury and promptly retired just before first Test, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson are all expected to have played their last Tests.
Managing the influx of a raft of new players while nursing the egos of the remaining senior ones might be Smith’s toughest task as captain.
Man management often seemed an insurmountable job for Clarke, with rumors of dressing-room disharmony and clashes with selectors a hallmark of his four years in charge.
As Clarke has struggled for runs this tour, the pressure on his deputy also seemed to take its toll and Smith has failed with the bat in four innings since his glorious 215 and 58 in the second Test at Lord’s.
Though Clarke will hog much of the attention in the dead rubber against England at The Oval, Smith will be eager to stamp his mark at the crease and lead from the front as he did with three centuries in his three Tests in charge against India.
“He was a great captain and a terrific player, so he’s going to be missed, that’s for sure,” Smith said of the departing skipper.
“Hopefully we can send Michael off on a high note at The Oval,” he added.
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
Former MLB pitcher Wang Wei-chung has signed the biggest contract with a local team in Taiwan’s professional baseball history, the Wei Chuan Dragons said yesterday. The 28-year-old left-hander signed a five-year US$2.08 million contract with the Dragons, team chairman Hsu Wen-fang told a news conference. It is the biggest contract in the CPBL’s 31-year history, surpassing a three-year, US$1.36 million deal Lin Chih-sheng signed in 2016 with the CTBC Brothers. Although the overall value of Wang’s deal set a new record, his average monthly salary of NT$990,000 (US$33,886) is lower than Lin’s pay of NT$1.2 million per month in 2017