May 012013

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Phil Hughes Mitch Starc

Challenge … Australian cricket has a leadership vacuum. Source: Dan Peled / AAP

With no obvious successor to Michael Clarke in sight, Australian cricket’s young guns have been urged to strive high to be the next Test captain.

Michael Clarke (c)
George Bailey (vc)
David Warner
Shane Watson
Phillip Hughes
Adam Voges
James Faulkner
Mitchell Johnson
Clint McKay
Xavier Doherty
Matthew Wade
Mitchell Starc
Nathan Coulter-Nile
Glenn Maxwell
Mitch Marsh

Chief selector John Inverarity has admitted it’s a wide open field to replace Clarke when his tenure ends – and he wants emerging players to put their hands up.

Ever since the Test captaincy was forced on Allan Border following Kim Hughes’ tearful resignation in 1984, there’s been an obvious successor groomed as the next skipper.

But allrounder Shane Watson’s decision to stand down as Clarke’s vice-captain following the so-called ‘homework-gate’ controversy has highlighted the current leadership vacuum in Australian cricket.

Veteran wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, 35, was last week appointed as Clarke’s Test deputy for the Ashes, while 30-year-old George Bailey was named official vice-captain of the one-day team on Wednesday.

The country’s Twenty20 skipper, Bailey is highly regarded and also captained Australia to two wins from three one-dayers last summer but has never played a Test and is just two years younger than Clarke.

Inverarity admitted the five-man selection panel seriously considered giving deposed Test gloveman Matthew Wade, 25, a leadership position before opting for Bailey’s experience.

David Warner, 26, has often been mentioned as a future leader but the selectors did not even consider the explosive opener.

Inverarity admitted succession planning was a “challenge” for his panel, who made fringe Test batsman Steve Smith, 24, vice-captain of the upcoming Australia A tour of the UK.

He acknowledged the stark contrast to previous years when the Test side usually had a number of Sheffield Shield captains in their ranks.

“It’s an open field so it’s a great opportunity for a lot of young players,” he said.

“That particular age group they need to look at that and look at the opportunities there.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for some young men.”

Inverarity’s statement took top-order batsman Phil Hughes, 24, by surprise.

He admitted leadership aspirations would only be on the radar of rising players once they cement themselves in the Australian side through consistent performances, and that took the prime focus.

“Leadership – number one foremost is performing and staying there for a few years,” Hughes said.

Tasmanian skipper Bailey agreed and didn’t believe his one-day appointment would help move him any closer at all to Test selection.

“The best way of getting into the Test team is scoring runs in long-form cricket,” he said.

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