Greg Hawke | 10:55am gmt 12 Feb 2008
The Australian Cricket Team, in all forms of the game is bursting with both talent and experience. So one would assume the task of filling the vice captaincy role (made vacant by a retiring Adam Gilchrist)would be a no brainer.
But before the national selectors make their recommendation to Cricket Australia for Gilchrist's successor, they need to make one very important decision. Does Australia need a short term or long term solution?
Do they appoint a vice captain that will support Ricky Ponting for the next few years? Or do they appoint a deputy that will also one day be the successor to Ricky Ponting?
Michael Hussey would seem to be the favoured choice to play the support role to Ponting in the vice captaincy, given the selectors chose him to captain Australia in the Chappell - Hadlee Trophy series in New Zealand this time last year.
This might however be seen as a short term solution, and one that could work quite nicely to see the decade out, but with Hussey being only 5 months younger than Ricky Ponting, it's hard to imagine him being the next long term skipper of Australia.
If, on the other hand Australia is going to look to the future, then for mine, Michael (Pup) Clarke is the standout choice as a "captain in waiting".
Whilst still having much experience to gain as a leader, Pup has proven of late he is keen to learn and take on this challenge.
After being selected to captain two Twenty20 matches this year, Pup didn't show any signs of intimidation while leading his more mature team mates. In fact he seemed to thrive on the added responsibility, and showed off an aggressive and decisive captaincy style.
Still, the idea of Clarke taking over from Ponting too soon through an injury to Ponting, or something similar, could be seen as a real issue. But maybe the solution to this issue lies within the experience of the playing group? Perhaps the selectors look to appoint a leadership group to keep the ship on course should Ponting be unavailable.
The leadership group concept has been around for a while now, and appears to be in vogue with a host of team sports in recent years, and might work very well for the Australians.
Let's consider this; Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke (vice captain), with Mike Hussey, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden forming the backbone of a leadership group. Pup would have the final say at decision time of course, but who could argue with the quality of experience and support he would have at his disposal?
One could argue though, that for nearly two decades Australian cricket has maintained an enviable winning record in all forms of cricket, and they've achieved this with very few of it's players being under 30 years of age, so why worry about youth?
But let's not kid ourselves, whilst cricket is a sport that can be kind to it's more mature players, we need only cast our minds back to the late 1980's when the awesome West Indian team went from "chocolates to boiled lollies" in a very short space of time, all because the West Indian cricket authorities didn't plan for the future.