Where are all the leaders?

AUSTRALIAN cricket desperately needs Michael Clarke's right hamstring to allow him to be fit for Boxing Day duty.

Not just for his batting prowess, but, more importantly, without the Australian captain the leadership cupboard is bare.

Just look at the alternatives.

Vice-captain Shane Watson's spot in the team (or more precisely in the batting line-up) is not exactly set in stone. 

The fact that his body often lets him down also counts against him.

David Warner has been mentioned as future captain, but has yet to get the consistency in his game to be seen as one.

Ed Cowan has had some captaincy experience, but is in the same boat as Warner.

In reality, there has been so much transition in the side no batsman bar Clarke and Mike Hussey are on solid ground.

Mr Cricket would be the most ideal candidate on form and standing in the team to replace Clarke on Boxing Day, but you don't select a guy as vice-captain if you're not going to make him captain if that position suddenly needs filling.

Apart from Hussey, the only other man in the team with captaincy credentials in the XI is Nathan Lyon, who captained South Australia earlier this summer.

This scenario is in stark contrast to teams of the past.

When Steve Waugh's time was over, there was Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne who would all have made worthy captains, and when Ponting retired, there was a standout contender in Clarke, with worthy types in Brad Haddin and Hussey waiting in the wings.

If Clarke were suddenly to fall off the scene, there is no clear-cut replacement.

This team also doesn't have the likes of Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Mark Waugh and Darren Lehmann around the group to provide extra support.

The fact that state leaders like Cameron White and Marcus North have been tried and failed as players is also a factor.

Losing Haddin and Ponting in recent times has hurt the team far greater from this perspective then anyone could have realised.

Great teams need more than just one leader and Clarke needs to find some lieutenants if Australia is to get back to number one in the world.

Whether they can grow them from within the team, or be brought in like George Bailey was to the Twenty20 side remains to be seen.

But there's a good chance the next long-term captain of Australia is nowhere near the XI that will run out on Boxing Day.

His name is Tim Paine and rather than a Baggy Green he will be wearing the purple of the Hobart Hurricanes.

If it wasn't for his finger issues, he might already be established in the Test team, and these leadership issues might be non-existent.

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