As we steadily approach an Ashes series next summer that could be Tim Paine’s farewell from the international game, hear me out on an option from left-field to replace him as skipper – Alex Carey.
The Adelaide Strikers may have split their games against the Melbourne Renegades this week but Carey greatly enhanced his standing in the eyes of the cricket public in both games.
On Tuesday, the wicketkeeper-batsman pulled Matt Renshaw aside and appeared to calm him down after a fiery verbal clash with Kane Richardson. It impressed Mike Hussey, who was commentating the game for Fox Cricket.
Last night he showcased fine sportsmanship by stepping up to ensure his team didn’t get an unfair advantage by an umpiring oversight. Rival skipper Aaron Finch was quick to express his appreciation.
Both situations showed the type of qualities you want in a leader. Someone that can drive standards and hold teammates accountable – and knows what constitutes a competitive advantage and what oversteps the line.
Carey is well-positioned to succeed Paine as our next Test keeper.
He has the highest batting average of all the players currently wearing the gloves in Shield cricket outside 35-year-old Peter Nevill – even though Western Australia’s Josh Inglis is closing fast after a ripping start to the summer.
He also has the advantage of already appearing in a combined 72 T20 and one-day internationals.
At 29, the South Australian is slightly older than what you’d like given Paine will be around for at least 12 to 18 more months.
But picking a popular keeper with experience on his side didn’t turn out so badly last time we tried.
Managing the transition would be the biggest challenge.
It’s not unprecedented in Test history for a debutant to be handed the captaincy – but of the 23 occasions it’s happened only four have come since World War II and the most recent was New Zealand’s Lee Germon who went on to win one of 12 matches as skipper.
It would be preferable to have Carey play alongside Paine as a batsman for 12 months to embed in the team before becoming the leader.
Travis Head and Matthew Wade have opened the door at number five but even though Carey’s first-class average of 34 is fine for a keeper it would be risky to add him to a batting line-up that is far from firing on all cylinders right now.
But none of the other options are a perfect fit.
Pat Cummins remains the favourite but would be the first bowler to get the job since Richie Benaud.
Steve Smith wins back supporters by the day but questions remain over whether his unique personality and approach to the game is best suited for leadership.
“Future Test captain” Travis Head is also hard to argue for now he’s out of the side.
Cricket power brokers remind us Paine is only 36 and there’s no rush to make a decision.
But that might just give Carey more time to build his case.