Have Aussies found their next Test skipper?
AUSTRALIA has spent more than a century convincing itself wicketkeepers don't make Test captains.
Now it could go for two in a row.
Rising star gloveman Alex Carey on Tuesday emerged as a prime candidate to be Tim Paine's successor in every sense of the word, after he was promoted to lead a strong Australia A side against Pakistan next month.
The captaincy debate raging this summer has largely centred on whether Steve Smith should return to his former post once his leadership ban expires next March.
There is a belief Smith may feel as torn over whether he would even want that life again, as ex-greats are over whether re-burdening him with captaincy is the right thing to do.
But just as intriguing is what would Australian selectors do if the answer on Smith ends up being, no?
Australian vice-captain Travis Head is currently out of the Test team and will be flat out winning his spot back for the first Test of the summer.
Head will line up in the three-day Australia A tour match against Pakistan in Perth starting on November 11 in a cut-throat batting shootout with fellow contenders Marcus Harris, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Will Pucovski and Nic Maddinson for just two vacancies in the Test top six.
Pat Cummins has also been pushed forward as a Test captain but doesn't appear to covet the role and has enough on his plate spearheading the bowling attack.
There is no doubt the promotion of Carey to captain Australia A - ahead of Head - is a very pointed indication of where he might sit in the reckoning should a changing of the guard occur.
Australian coach Justin Langer has made it clear current skipper Paine is well and truly entrenched in his post, but as the Tasmanian approaches his 35th birthday, a succession plan will ultimately have to be put into place at some point in time.
Sir Donald Bradman said back in the 1950s that, all things being equal, the keeper should not be the skipper because they have too much on their plate and captaincy was best left to unburdened batsmen.
Some high-powered figures in the game believe that while Carey is an undoubtedly an exceptional talent, captaincy would be too much for him to handle as a Test debutant and gloveman.
Others though, believe he has the maturity to handle being thrown in the deep end.
National selector Trevor Hohns has made no secret of the esteem he holds Carey in.
"He is held in such high regard that I'd seriously like to see him captaining his state, but that's not for me to say," Hohns recently said..
"He's the type of person that potentially is a very, very good leader."
Hohns reinforced that belief on Tuesday.
"Alex Carey has proven himself to be an exceptional leader in his role as vice-captain of the Australian men's One-Day International and Twenty20 International teams," Hohns said.
"This fixture represents an opportunity to provide Alex with more leadership experience and he will be supported by two experienced vice-captains in Usman Khawaja and Travis Head."
Thrusting a wicketkeeper into the captaincy on Test debut would put enormous pressure on Carey that Australia would clearly like to avoid.
Although at least a new keeper would likely be given a long run at establishing himself, as opposed to the risk associated with picking someone like Head, who could quickly fall out of form, or Cummins, who could be subject to injury.
Regardless of whether Australian cricket decides Smith is best suited to leadership or being a foot soldier, one way or another, selectors will have to go on gut instinct to pick their next captain.
Australia A: Alex Carey (capt), Marcus Harris, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Will Pucovski, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Sean Abbott, Riley Meredith.
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