Australian cricket coach Justin Langer is confident there are enough emerging leaders ready to help skipper Tim Paine through what shapes as a tough summer.
Cricket Australia opted to not unveil a vice-captain among the 15-man squad chosen on Tuesday for next month's Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Paine will captain the side in his first full Test series since replacing the suspended Steve Smith in South Africa, while a deputy has to be found to replace David Warner, who is also suspended for a year but can never hold a leadership spot in the team again.
Allrounder Mitch Marsh, who has assumed considerable leadership roles in the past year, taking on the captaincy of WA, the Perth Scorchers and Australia A, is favourite to claim the vice-captaincy but there are other strong candidates, including Victorian Aaron Finch, who has been drafted into the Test squad, and Queensland skipper Usman Khawaja.
A final call on that process is likely to be next week.
"There’s a number of guys who captain their states now. Mitch will certainly be in the hunt. He’s just coming back from his surgery, he’s captain of WA so there’s no doubt he’ll be one of the frontrunners for vice captaincy," Langer, formerly the WA coach, said.
"Aaron Finch is also the captain of the T20 side, hasn’t played Test cricket yet. Josh Halzewood is not on this tour but is highly regarded within the group. Travis Head is another one. Guys like Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja – a lot of good young leaders there. Whoever has got the title that’ll be one thing but as long as we’ve got lots of leaders, that’s what worries me."
One option is to name a vice-captain only for the series against Pakistan, then to reassess ahead of the home summer.
"We’re going through a process at the moment which is a bit different to what we usually do in Australian cricket," Langer said.
"But what I do know is there are five or six guys who are in the hunt for leadership positions in white ball and red ball cricket. There’s a couple of guys – we’ll announce that in due course."
Langer and Paine will need to formalise a new top order, for former opening batsman Cameron Bancroft is also suspended for his role in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
One option is to open with Matthew Renshaw and Khawaja, with Shaun Marsh at No.3 and Aaron Finch at No.4.
"How do you replace Steve Smith? He’s scored so many Test hundreds, he was almost Bradman-esque the way he’s played last few years. It's hard to replace him, as it’s with David Warner," Langer said.
"He is a run machine, and no team likes playing against David Warner at the top of the order."
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