Give Smith the captaincy if he wants it: Khawaja

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Second T20 International - England v Australia - Ageas Bowl, Southampton, Britain - September 6, 2020 Australia's Steve Smith in action Pool via REUTERS/Paul Childs

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former Australia batsman Usman Khawaja has called for Steve Smith to take back the captaincy of the test side once Tim Paine's tenure is over.

Smith, who led the team for nearly three years, was stripped of the captaincy and banned from leadership roles for two years in the wake of the Newlands ball-tampering scandal in 2018.

Smith's leadership ban expired last March but the master batsman has since been overlooked for roles in the test and white-ball teams.

"If Steve Smith wants to captain Australia, I think he should captain Australia," Queensland captain Khawaja told reporters in Brisbane on Friday.

"He’s our number one batsman, he’s done it before, he’s paid for his mistakes, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be in line for the captaincy if wants to do it."

Paine succeeded Smith as captain and led Australia to their Ashes triumph in England in 2019.

But Paine's leadership was criticised during the test series against India and Australia's 2-1 loss on home soil against the injury-ravaged tourists sparked calls for the 36-year-old to relinquish the captaincy and focus on his wicketkeeping.

Fast bowler Pat Cummins is vice-captain of the test team and Marnus Labuschagne is regarded by some pundits as a candidate for the captaincy despite playing only 18 tests.

Australia's selectors have steered clear of even mentioning Smith's name in conversations about leadership roles.

Smith, who recently won a third Allan Border Medal as the country's top male cricketer, told reporters last month the captaincy was "not on (his) radar" and the decision was out of his hands.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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