Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine now has joint lieutenants in Mitchell Marsh and Josh Hazlewood, at the end of a formal examination of the vice-captaincy that sought to avoid the continuation of a long pattern of failed leadership duos that included the banned Steven Smith and David Warner.
While Hazlewood has been a consistent member of the Test team since he debuted in Smith’s first Test as captain, in 2014 against India, Marsh’s career has been speckled with injury and bouts of poor form. At the same time, the demands of fast bowling and the management policies of CA will mean that Hazlewood cannot turn out for every match. Nevertheless, their selections represent an evolution in one of Australian cricket’s most contentious roles.
Where Smith and Warner were simply recommended by the selectors to the Cricket Australia board in 2015, over the objections of numerous senior figures in Australian cricket, Marsh and Hazlewood had been first put forward by their Australian team-mates. They then made leadership presentations to a seven-person panel, featuring selector Greg Chappell, board director Mark Taylor, coach Justin Langer, chairman David Peever, selection committee chairman Trevor Hohns, team psychologist Michael Lloyd and team performance manager Pat Howard.
The process was similar to that used by Langer in Western Australia to reach the decision to name Marsh the state captain last year, although Hohns was at pains to make it clear that it had not been devised to anoint the next captain. Rather, CA senior figures wanted to ensure that the players chosen would be as supportive to the captain Paine as possible, something that could not be said of previous fractious pairings, such as that of Michael Clarke with Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson with Clarke, and Warner with Smith.
“Justin Langer and Tim Paine have a clear vision for the Test team, and Josh and Mitch are invested and ready to support the coach and captain on this journey,” Hohns said. “And this was a fundamental part of the process. It was not a process designed to find the next Australian Test captain, but to find two vice-captains who will support and help drive the team’s goals and objectives.
“Josh and Mitch display great leadership qualities, and we were extremely impressed by their passion and energy to help guide Australian cricket into this exciting new era. Our vision is to create great cricketers and great people, and we are extremely fortunate to have such terrific young men charged with responsibility of upholding the high standards and values we and Australian cricket fans expect of their Test team.
“Josh has shown he is a leader among the playing group, and we felt it was important to have a representative from the bowling group. He’s calm under pressure, communicates well, and leads by example on and off the field. Mitch has successfully captained Australia A, Australia U19 and Western Australia. He is an extremely popular member of the team, he has great humility, and given his lineage, he understands and respects the responsibility which comes with representing Australia and Australians.”
Langer is a board director for the West Coast Eagles AFL club, and much of his learning about leadership has been drawn from sports beyond the realm of cricket. “We believe the new leadership model will best support the captain,” Hohns said. “It is a successful model used across various sporting codes around the world, and we see it benefiting the group, not just from a tactical perspective, but also to help drive the team’s values and standards on and off the field.
“We also feel the new model provides great balance. There is strong and even representation of both the batting and bowling groups, which is important when making decisions which are in the best interest of the team. The demands on the modern cricketer were also factors we took into account, including the amount of cricket they play in a season, to what happens in the event a member of the leadership group is missing through injury.
“We look forward to the first Test against Pakistan, and we’ll watch with great interest as our leaders lead the team into what is going to be a huge summer of cricket.”
With Hazlewood currently on a rehabilitation plan to recover from injury in time for the home international season, Marsh is Paine’s deputy on the ground in Dubai, ahead of two Tests against Pakistan. “I had a meeting with Cracker, JL and Michael Lloyd in a room here at the hotel, and they told me the good news,” he said. “I’m very proud, we’ve been through this process over the last couple of months as a team, and to have my team-mates vote myself and Josh into this position, I’m very proud, and hopefully, I’ll do the job justice.
“It is something different for cricket, but that’s the world these days, we live in the modern world and modern game of cricket. Josh and I will do everything we can to make Tim Paine’s life easier, that’s how I see the vice-captaincy role. We will, like every other person in this team, lead to the best of our ability in Australian cricket and make Tim Paine’s job as easy as possible.”
In his presentation, Marsh said he had stated that all members of the Australian team needed to be leaders, irrespective of whether or not they had a title attached to their name. “The biggest thing we’ve spoken about as a team right now, and I even said it in my presentation to the board, is whether I have a title next to my name or not, it’s actually irrelevant,” he said. “I want to be the best person, best Australian cricketer and leader that I can be for this group and for the whole organisation.
“That’s something we want every single cricketer to be in the Australian cricket team, and hopefully, I’ll be able to instill that in young guys coming through, what it means to be an Australian cricketer and what we stand for going forward. Yes it is different, but it’s 2018, and for us as a group, I thought it was a really good process for where we’re at right now, I sit here as the vice-captain and very proud.
“We went through the exact same process with WA. I’ve certainly grown as a leader in the past 12 months for WA, found out about myself and about my leadership. But I absolutely love captaining WA, probably my biggest strength is that hasn’t changed me as a person, and I certainly don’t see the vice-captaincy role changing me as a person, I’ll be that same guy around the team that’s got me to the position, and I think that’s really important, that’s leadership in my opinion.”
Hazlewood said he would make a virtue of having no personal ambitions to become captain. “It’s probably no secret that the relationships between captain and vice-captain haven’t been great in the last 10 or 12 years,” he said in Sydney. “So maybe having someone as vice-captain who’s not necessarily aspiring to be captain, that’s the position that I find myself in and I can really contribute as a leader and a vice-captain without ever really pushing that next level. Then Mitch and myself can do everything we can to make Painey’s job as easy as possible.”
Candidates for leadership in Australia’s ODI and Twenty20 teams also presented to the panel, including Aaron Finch, Alex Carey and Travis Head. CA will delay revealing the leaders of the limited-overs teams until they announce the Twenty20 squad to face Pakistan in a series of matches following the two Tests.