20 Dec 2014

Langer backs Smith as Aussie captain

12:27 pm on 20 December 2014

Cricket great Justin Langer says Steve Smith's appointment as Australia's interim Test captain is a courageous decision that is likely to pay handsome dividends in the years to come.

Australian batsman Justin Langer on day one of the 5th Ashes test match between Australia and England, Sydney, 2007.

Australian batsman Justin Langer on day one of the 5th Ashes test match between Australia and England, Sydney, 2007. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Smith will captain the Test side for the remainder of the series against India after skipper Michael Clarke was cut down by a serious hamstring injury.

Clarke underwent surgery on Tuesday, with the 33-year-old admitting his degenerative back and hamstring issues are so bad that his glittering career is no certainty to continue.

Smith has cracked six Test tons and five half-centuries since August last year, with the 25-year-old's form in the one-day arena equally impressive.

Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, 37, was overlooked for the Test captaincy in favour of Smith, and Langer thinks it is the right decision.

"I think it's a really courageous selection," Langer said.

"Smith's maturity over the last 12-or-18 months - both with the bat and as a person - has been remarkable."

"I think he's the most improved cricketer I've ever seen."

"For him to go from where he's come from with his home-spun technique - kind of like what Phil Hughes had, it's a really unusual technique - for him to have turned that into such a run-making machine is a great credit for him."

"You've seen with Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, they grew with the leadership. They got better and better."

"If Smith has improved that much over the past 18 months, you can only wonder how much he's going to improve as a player and a leader over the next one, two, five years."

Clarke is in danger of missing the World Cup after tearing his right hamstring during Australia's recent Test win against India in Adelaide.

Langer said it was sad to see such a great player succumb to injury.

"You usually see with a lot of fast bowlers that their careers come to a grinding halt. I hope that doesn't happen with Michael Clarke," Langer said.

"He's an absolute professional, and he's hardcore tough."

"He'll do everything he can to get back on the field. I'd be surprised if he doesn't make it back."

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