The people have spoken - Tim Paine’s got to go
A former Test selector believes there's not a clear enough candidate to replace Tim Paine as captain, but public support is rising for Steve Smith to make an incredible comeback to the post.
Test great Mark Waugh says if there was a standout option to take over the reins for next month's tour of South Africa, then perhaps Paine's time might be up following the chastening series loss to India.
As Australia ponders its leadership future, brother Steve Waugh, revealed on Tim Gilbert's Afternoon Sport podcast, that he had been sought out by Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane for advice before a series which has instilled him forever as an Indian Test great, and may now spark debate that he should usurp Virat Kohli as permanent skipper.
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But Mark Waugh said Paine too has largely done a good captain as a Test skipper and believes Australia's best course of action in South Africa is to light a fire under the batting line-up and bowling attack who should be offering the Tasmanian more support.
Waugh said sub-par first innings totals and poor catching was Australia's biggest issue against India, and also called on an bowling quartet of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon with more than 1000 Test wickets between them to take more ownership of their own fields and tactics and help Paine out.
A News Corp poll of more than 7000 readers voted 65 per cent to remove Paine as captain, with a separate poll of 2000 plus readers having Smith as the 51 per cent favourite to fill the void in the same country where he was sensationally sacked as skipper back in 2018.
Waugh agrees Smith is the only alternative to Paine, but in the short term believes the best option for Australia is to focus on putting more support around the 36-year-old.
"If he's not captain, who are the choices? That's the issue," said Fox Cricket expert, Waugh.
"If there was a standout candidate I think it might be time for him to step down as captain, but I don't see it. I just don't see it. Unless Steve Smith is going to do it there's no one else I can see who could be captain.
"I think Paine has done a pretty good job and maybe he needs a bit more help on the field with the senior players, because it's difficult to be a keeper and captain.
"I think under pressure we saw that affected his wicketkeeping, because he's a very good wicketkeeper, he doesn't drop many catches. But this series he has done when he's been under pressure, trying to win the game."
Waugh said his one criticism of Paine is that he's perhaps a little on the conservative side and believes Australia suffered from a lack of aggression at key moments in the Gabba Test.
But that responsibility should not just fall on the captain alone.
"Tactically he could have been more aggressive. If he does have a weakness, he can be a bit on the conservative side sometimes when a gamble needs to be taken," said Waugh.
"When Rishabh Pant comes in for example and they stick the field back straight away
"But some of the bowlers need to take ownership of the fields they're setting. Bowlers with 400 and 300 Test wickets, should be the ones demanding a certain field.
"They might be part of the issue as well. A bit conservative when need to attack. Even batting on the fourth day, we should have scored quicker."
Waugh said aside from looking at a potential alternative to Matthew Wade at No.5 and Will Pucovski coming back at the top of the order, he can't envisage any other changes to Australia's XI in South Africa.
Steve Waugh told The Afternoon Sport podcast that Indian saviour Rahane - who galvanised a Kohli-less India with his calmer approach - is someone he has got to know well.
"There's the difference between captaincy and leadership and maybe he did relax the boys a bit. They had nothing to lose," said Steve Waugh.
"I've had a bit to do with Rahane. He's sought me out for a bit of guidance on leadership and I had a good chat to him (on a recent trip to India) and I also spoke to him in Australia.
"He's a really good style of a fella. More in the Rahul David mould where he's a quiet achiever, not big on the stand on top of the table making big speeches (style).
"He's more one on one and behind the scenes and working with the players and showing belief.
"The side yesterday did relax and played incredible cricket for a bunch of players who no one expected to play well."
Originally published as The people have spoken - Tim Paine's got to go