There comes a time when every leader, great or horrible, has to vacate the throne.
JFK was assassinated, George W Bush reached his two-term limit, John Howard lost his seat to an ex-ABC journalist, Napoleon was sent into exile, Hansie Cronje was caught cheating, Sourav Ganguly retired and then there are some who have a bad back and two dodgy hamstrings.
Michael Clarke was never going to miss the Adelaide Test.
Call it selfish, brave or simply run of the mill, the man who led Australia through possibly its greatest period of mourning in recent years was always going to be there for his mate and little brother.
However, his lead up to the game was far from perfect. He hadn’t battered unhindered since Moses was a boy. His back had him walking like an old man suffering arthritis. His hamstrings had the potential to explode indiscriminately like a roadside bomb in Iraq.
And they did.
Clarke has now admitted he may never play for Australia again. This is sad. He is still just a young man. Only 33.
If he worked in any normal business anywhere in the world, he’d perhaps hold a middle management executive position leading five or six people. He would 30 years worth of a career ahead of him. He would also be replaceable.
But he doesn’t and he isn’t.
However, this isn’t a story about Michael J Clarke.
It is about what comes next.
Today Steve Smith was named the new captain of Australia. To be accurate, he was named vice-captain, replacing Brad Haddin. Given Clarke is out, Smith therefore steps into the captaincy role.
But what of Brad Haddin?
He was the vice-captain. He brought Australia home in that Adelaide Test while his skipper was injured. He brings experience. He brings a sense of the classic Aussie man. A top bloke. Someone who sacrifices. Able to bring the different personalities that make up a cricket team together. Respected by his bosses and those that pay to watch him.
We cannot forget how he temporarily handed his gloves to Matthew Wade so he could care for his daughter. Neither will his Ashes batting in 2013 fail to be recalled by those that understood that consistently being 5 for 150 was not ideal.
However, in cricketing years, he is closer to the end than the start. He is 37.
Does being the vice-captain bring with it the automatic right to be the captain when that time comes?
It did for Shane Watson.
But today’s story is about someone else The bolter from NSW. Steven Devereux Smith.
Like Clarke and Steve Waugh before that, he initially failed to impress the Australian public. Flashy. Loose. His leg spin wasn’t worthy of a spot at number eight. However, he wasn’t dating Lara Bingle, so that’s a positive.
However, his last 18 months have seen a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. A special talent. Much like his mate Phil Hughes, he bats his own way. A run-maker. A fighter. An entertainer.
We have seen him become a closer in ODI’s, a regular century maker in Test cricket, a partnership breaker with the random full toss and a man who moves like Jonty Rhodes in the field.
Does any of this make him a leader of men?
The 2015 World Cup will come and go. Smith is not the ODI captain. That is still Clarke. George Bailey is the vice-captain.
However, it is the 2015 Ashes that is the real prize.
There is nothing to suggest Smith would struggle as captain. There is nothing to suggest he would succeed either. On field form is nothing but a guide. This is the current view of the ECB with Alistair Cook.
Finally, what of the other candidate David Warner. Leadership is perhaps, in its rawest sense, purely about people. On the fateful day at the SCG now a few weeks ago, Warner displayed leadership in spades. He never left his mate Phillip Hughes’ side.
He can also play. He brings runs, energy and a sense of old school Australian mongrel to the pitch.
He’s 28, has a child. He has life experiences. He had to earn his place as the best opener in the world through hard work. This former T20 sideshow is now a global showman.
He also has baggage. Joe Root’s jaw and ‘scared eyes’. Remember that time he failed to turn up for his club side?
Australia made a choice.
Haddin is the safe pair of hands and was vice-captain, but he has a limited shelf life.
Warner is the X-factor, but like Shane Warne, his off field mistakes have probably ruined his chances.
Smith could be skipper for the next 10 years as a mainstay in the Test and ODI sides.
Australia have made the right decision
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