Door opens for Smith to lead country again
Justin Langer says Australia may consider Steve Smith for a vice-captaincy role once his leadership ban expires at the end of this month.
The question of whether Smith will ever skipper his country again is one that won't be answered for a long time yet, with Tim Paine and Aaron Finch both locked into their respective posts as Test and white ball captains for the foreseeable future.
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Michael Clarke said this week that Finch should step aside after this year's World Cup on home soil, but Australian coach Langer claimed on Tuesday he couldn't envisage a change on that front until at least 12 months beyond that, when another T20 World Cup will be staged in India.
Langer has already endorsed Paine as Test captain until at least next year's Test Championship final at Lord's.
However, selectors haven't ruled out a more subtle adjustment which could formally recognise Smith in the leadership structure without thrusting him back into the hot seat.
Australia has utilised multiple vice-captains over the past 18 months, and although a change isn't being contemplated immediately, Langer says an elevation for Smith to the vice-captaincy could not be ruled out at some point beyond the end of March.
"Maybe, it's a good question. I said all summer that it's all about timing, isn't it," Langer told The Daily Telegraph.
"Australian captaincy is all about timing. People who are in the team at the time, people who are developing, people who are ripe for the picking right at the time when the captaincy comes up.
"That (vice-captaincy) might be an option.
"Not many guys have gone from being captain to still playing like Steve has done. Ricky Ponting did it, but you go back over our history, not many players have done that.
"Steve's was forced upon him in a sense. He's been tremendous the way he still shows leadership around the group and I've always said, in 25 years, untitled leaders are the most important at times.
"Because you want everyone to be a good leader. If they haven't got the title and they're still showing leadership, that's a good sign I reckon."
Langer has changed the mould with his vice-captaincy appointments, seeking a structure that doesn't put pressure on those assisting the captain by "anointing" them as the skipper-in-waiting.
Pat Cummins and Travis Head are the Test vice-captains, while Alex Carey and Cummins assist Finch in the white ball formats.
It's unlikely Australia would force a change unless one of the vice-captains dropped out of the equation due to form or injury.
"I've said for a long time, the most important thing about the captain is that they're performing well. That takes pressure off everyone and (Smith) is certainly performing well. He's ticking that box, no doubt about that," said Langer.
"We've been consistent in having the two vice-captains and we did that for a reason. You don't necessarily want to anoint the next captain. We try and develop many of our guys whether they've got the title of 'c' or 'vc' next to their name or not.
"No doubt it's topical, we pay a great respect, but when you've got captains who are doing such a great job then you look at other ways to give them opportunities to lead."
Players' association boss Alistair Nicholson told Gerard Whateley on radio SEN on Tuesday that David Warner's lifetime leadership ban should be overturned.
Langer has endorsed Finch's future as captain of the white ball teams as strongly as he has Paine in Test cricket.
"We've got two Twenty20 World Cups in two years, that'll be important, and the second one is in India as well," said Langer.
"Right at this moment I can't think of a single reason why we would change the captaincy. The boys are both doing a really good job. They're both playing good cricket. So we're in a really good place there at the moment."