Melbourne: Steven Smith, 25, was named Australia’s new vice captain Monday but will lead the side for the rest of the four-match Test series against India after a hamstring injury ruled out regular skipper Michael Clarke for an uncertain period.
Smith, the boy-faced batsman, whose talent and temperament saw him earmarked as a future leader almost from the time he cemented a place in the national team, will have wicketkeeper Brad Haddin as his deputy in the remaining three Tests, Cricket Australia (CA) said in a statement.
Smith’s appointment was recommended by the National Selection Panel Sunday night in the wake of Clarke’s potentially long-term hamstring injury and was formally ratified by the Cricket Australia (CA).
“These are difficult circumstances given Michael’s injury and the fact that we don’t know how long he will be out of the game,” National Selector Rod Marsh said.
“What we do know is that it won’t be an overnight fix so after a lot of thought we have taken the opportunity to appoint an emerging young leader as captain until such time as Michael regains fitness and returns to the side. We congratulate Steve on the wonderful honour of leading his country.”
Smith, aged 25 years and 195 days, will Wednesday become Australia’s youngest Test captain since Kim Hughes took over the leadership in March 1979 at 25 years and 57 days, and the third-youngest in Australian cricket history behind Ian Craig who was just 22 when he took over the job in 1958.
“Brad Haddin has done an exceptional job as vice-captain since assuming the role last year and will provide strong support to Steve just as he has done for Michael,” Marsh said.
“There was a strong argument for Brad to assume the captaincy until Michael returns, but given we don’t know how long that will be, we felt the time was right to take a longer-term view and give a young player this chance.”
The appointment caps a remarkable rise for Smith who, having made his Test debut shortly after his 21st birthday in 2010 as a leg spinner and lower-order batsman, found himself out of the team as recently as two years ago.
Having worked hard to tighten his batting technique and given a taste of captaincy with the Sydney Sixers Twenty20 Big Bash League franchise, Smith returned to the Test team during Australia’s ill-fated tour of India last year when he showed great skill and maturity batting in difficult conditions.
Having reached his first Test century in the subsequent Ashes series in England – a milestone achieved in style with a six off Jonathan Trott’s bowling – Smith has since established himself as a reliable and prolific middle-order batsman with five centuries in his past 12 Tests.
Smith has led New South Wales in two games of the Sheffield Shield.