Sydney: Michael Clarke may just meet the fitness deadline to lead the national team into the World Cup starting February 14, even as many Australia cricket officials are mulling appointing Steven Smith as full-time captain after the 50-over showpiece event.
Clarke's recurring fitness issues and his continuing absence during India's tour has forced Cricket Australia to juggle with a couple of leadership options in the Test and ODIs and it is learnt that the decision makers are keen for a permanent change of guard before this year's Ashes tour of England.
Steven Smith (L) with David Warner. Pic/ AFP
According to Fairfax Media, senior sources in the Australian game say that an ideal scenario discussed is for the 33-year-old to stay in the team, with few disputing that as a world-class batsman he remains in Australia's best XI when fit, but play under the leadership of Smith.
CA chief executive James Sutherland though said of Clarke on Tuesday that he retained "a huge amount of confidence in Michael as a player, captain and a leader". But if reports are to be believed then there is angst over public positions taken by the captain in the past three months and concern about the growing distance between him and Australian teammates.
Both Sutherland and CA's Team Performance manager Pat Howard have denied that there had been discussions about Clarke being replaced. Any decision on the captaincy would have to be confirmed by the CA board, but would be based on the recommendation of the selection panel, headed by Rod Marsh.
Clarke said this week that he wanted to continue in the captaincy long term, telling Fairfax Media: "I think I've earned that respect." Smith also played with a straight bat while talking about captaincy change.
"It's been really good to take over temporarily and have a taste of it and I really enjoyed it. I don't really like to think about it too much regarding the future but I just like to stay as level headed as I can and take each day as it comes," Smith said.