Skipper solution which can solve Smith dilemma
Steve Smith's request to be reconsidered for the Test captaincy has forced Australia to confront an issue it has deliberately refused to look in the eye for three years.
Ask a CA powerbroker whether Smith will return as Test skipper after being sacked following the ball tampering scandal in Cape Town and their shoulders rise and heads wobble from side to side in a "hmmmm … tricky one'' sort of way.
In fairness, it's been that sort of question.
Reinstating Smith as Test captain was never Australia's Plan A.
But nor did it put a red pen through his name. It hoped the passing of time would bring clarity to a complex debate but it's only brought more clouds.
So on he floats, pondering if he could ever be what he was before Cape Town changed his life.
Smith's declaration in New Corp publications he would like the Test captaincy back is that of a man seeking clarification on where he stands and not wanting to die wondering.
Had he been told by CA "you are a shoe in'' or "sorry, we have to move on'' he would never have gone public but clearly they have told him nothing.
There is a simple reason for this. Australia cannot give Smith any guarantees because it still does not know the answer itself.
Among CA powerbrokers, opinions are divided on whether he should return or the job should go to Pat Cummins.
The latest tip is that Australia could hire both of them - Cummins as captain and Smith as his deputy to manage the ship while Cummins is bowling.
But the mood changes by the month, sometimes by the day.
The CA board, for the first time, will assess public opinion on the matter before making a choice and will have noted the tightness of the ''Smith for captaincy'' vote on News Corp websites today (56% for, 44% against) including a string of stinging anti-Smith comments at the bottom of Ben Horne's story.
With Smith, initially banned from the captaincy for two years after Cape Town, the "no'' voters are always more outspoken than the 'yes' brigade.
That hurts and worries CA because, in our image conscious world, they want their captain to be liked and preferably loved.
Deep, deep down Australia hoped it would never come to this.
It hoped the longer Tim Paine captained Australia the further away Smith would fade from captaincy contention and another candidate would emerge who would be seamlessly appointed without any offence to Smith, who remains well-liked by CA and greatly respected for being a genuine batting great.
But alas, the opposite has happened.
Smith's chances have risen by the summer because only Cummins has emerged as a serious option and the stigma of the ball tampering affair, while never far away, has faded to manageable proportions.
Even a year out from Paine's likely exit the captaincy it is a race in two - Cummins and Smith.
There will be no other option considered and it's a tough choice because both have their challenges.
Poster boy Cummins, admired the world over, is understood to be an excellent, deep thinking vice-captain but Australia has gone 65 years since appointing Ray Lindwall as a fast bowling captain (and that in a one-off Test) because it feels they are too heavily burdened.
Smith, of course, will always have the Cape Town baggage.
There is no perfect choice - which is why both men working together could be final outcome.
Originally published as Skipper solution which can solve Smith dilemma