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Everyone’s had their two cents on the punishments handed out to Australian cricket captain Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal.

And while opinions on the severity of the bans vary greatly (for the record, my barber reckons 12 month suspensions are way too harsh), here’s one point that’s not up for debate – there’s isn’t a single standout player to take over the reigns as Aussie skipper.

Who should get the nod now Smithy’s gone? The Benchwarmer has the answer.

THE CONTENDERS

Tim Paine

Credit where it’s due – ol’ Twistie finger Tim did a stellar job leading an emotional, mentally drained Australian team in the Fourth Test against South Africa.

Paine’s the type of fella you’d be comfortable having over to babysit the kids – reliable, sensible and no fuss. Those are all qualities that’ll aid a so-called ‘culture overhaul’ in Australian cricket.

Since Paine’s unexpected recall to the Test team, he’s averaged 45.2 with the willow, and is by far the best gloveman in the country. A safe selection.

Mitchell Marsh

From the in-and-out cricketer to the in-form all-rounder – the second chapter of Mitch Marsh’s Test career makes for pleasing reading.

Given yet another chance by selectors during the Ashes, the 26-year-old plundered 320 runs – including two centuries – against England. His 96 in Durban before the South African tour went off the rails isn’t lost, either.

We’ve finally got Marsh firing, but is it too big a gamble to hand the top job to a bloke that – like Paine –only recently cemented his place in the team?

We want a well-done steak, not a medium rare one! Maybe one day.

Pat Cummins

Australia’s had a handful of all-rounders captain the Test team, but never a paceman (not that fast bowling ever hindered the likes of Shaun Pollock, Wasim Akram and Courtney Walsh).

24-year-old Pat Cummins oozes leadership, and since his return to the national team, has been rock-solid with the ball.

He’s on-track for a remarkable career, and looks captain material. That is, if his body holds up.

On-field performances are one thing, but skippers need to be relied upon game-in, game-out.

With question marks over his long-term fitness, he just doesn’t tick all the boxes.

Michael Clarke & George Bailey

Both men have been mooted as ‘break glass in case of emergency’ options, but let’s be real – neither are happening!

Michael Clarke’s been in retirement since 2015, but a Bob Simpson-style return to the game simply isn’t necessary.

35-year-old George Bailey has been overlooked for Test selection since 2014, and only averaged 33 this Sheffield Shield season. Surely, that form doesn’t warrant a call-up, let alone the captaincy?

THE VERDICT

Right now, Tim Paine’s the best option Australia has.

The classy Tasmanian made great efforts to repair Australia’s damaged reputation in the final Test against South Africa, leading a football-style pre-match handshake with the opposition. That sort of leadership will go a long way.

Paine’s position in the team is safe – Matt Wade and Peter Nevill remain down the pecking order – and media commentary about ongoing finger injuries are just a beat up. Keepers play injured!

Expect the 33-year-old to hold down the fort ‘til a suitable long-term successor becomes apparent.

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