A two-year leadership ban slapped on Steve Smith after the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa ended on Sunday, leaving the master batsman free to skipper Australia again.
The 30-year-old captained the team until he was suspended for 12 months over a brazen attempt to alter the ball with sandpaper under his watch during a Test in Cape Town in 2018.
Part of his punishment included a further year-long exile from any leadership role, which has now expired.
Co-conspirator and former vice-captain David Warner was banned from any leadership role for life, although both have successfully resumed their international careers.
There have been calls for Smith to take back the Test captaincy from Tim Paine, but it remains unclear whether he wants to, with the 35-year-old seemingly intent on playing on.
Coach Justin Langer last year praised Paine’s leadership as “brilliant” and said Smith may not want the “burden” of captaincy on top of batting pressures.
Aaron Finch is skipper of the Twenty20 and one-day teams.
Smith told Channel Nine television on Sunday he was focused only on trying to stay physically and mentally fit during the coronavirus shutdown of Australian cricket.
He was supposed to be preparing for a big-money payday at the Indian Premier League, but the tournament has already been delayed until April 15 in response to the pandemic.
With India in a three-week lockdown in a bid to contain a spread of the virus, Smith admitted the IPL appeared unlikely to go ahead.
“I think the country’s basically shut its borders until April 15,” he said.
“It’s obviously not looking likely at the moment, I think there might be some meetings over the next couple of days to discuss what the go is with it all.
“But just trying to stay physically fit and mentally fresh,” he added. “If it goes ahead at some point, then great. If not, then there’s plenty going on in the world at the moment. Just play it day by day.”
All cricket in Australia has been cancelled, with the team’s three-match T20 series against New Zealand this month a casualty after just one game.
Australia has a Test tour to Bangladesh scheduled for June and a subsequent one-day campaign in England, but both appear to be at risk.
Meanwhile, cricket Australia has delayed the announcement of its annual list of contracted players because of the financial uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
CA had planned to bring forward the announcement from May to April to give more certainty to state cricket associations. But the announcement has now been delayed at least until the end of April with the agreement of the Australian cricket Players’ Association.
Both Smith and Warner have since made successful comebacks to the national side and were set to feature in the Indian Premier League after the end of the New Zealand series.
But the league itself has been postponed and uncertainty looms over it due to the three-week lockdown in India.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has said that even though cricket in the country is run by the BCCI, a call on the fate of the IPL can only be taken after the government assess the situation with regards to the coronavirus outbreak on April 15.
Former skipper Mark Taylor on Thursday backed Steve Smith to captain Australia again after his incredible Ashes exploits, as support mounts for the 30-year-old to be given a second chance.
A rising crop of young talent will compete with Steve Smith to be Australia’s next captain, current skipper Tim Paine said on Tuesday.
On-song Virat Kohli is looking to topple Aussie run machine Steve Smith in the international batting rankings as India push for a whitewash over South Africa in the third Test starting on Saturday.
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