Former skipper Mark Taylor Thursday backed Steve Smith to captain Australia again after his incredible Ashes exploits, as support mounts for the 30-year-old to be given a second chance.
Smith was banned for 12 months over a brazen attempt to alter the ball with sandpaper under his captaincy in a Cape Town Test, and slapped with a further year's suspension from any leadership role which runs out at the end of March next year.
While wicketkeeper Tim Paine assumed the job in Tests and won praise for the way he helped the side retain the Ashes at Old Trafford last weekend, he will be 35 in December.
Usman Khawaja and Travis Head have been touted as potential future leaders, but neither have performed in England while Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are bowlers, who rarely become captains.
Taylor, who helped determine Smith's ball-tampering penalty, along with the bans handed to David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, said he was the natural choice to take over.
"I believe Smith will captain Australia again," he said in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I was on the Cricket Australia board that determined the penalties for Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft over the events of Cape Town and have no doubt he will be a better leader next time around because of the very harsh lessons he learnt."
Paine was widely criticised for his decision-making in the third Test at Headingley that Australia lost, but he bounced back admirably at Old Trafford and Taylor said he should retain the armband for the upcoming home summer series against Pakistan and New Zealand.
But Smith would be waiting in the wings.
"To me it's not a matter of whether he (Smith) becomes captain again on April 1. It doesn't have to happen that quickly," he said.
"But I'd like to think when Paine is finished as Test captain -- whether that's in six months' time or two or three years -- he would be a candidate to lead the side again."
Another ex-captain, Ian Chappell, has also backed Smith to again assume the role.
"I think the problem for Australia will be there's no one else I can see to captain that side," he said recently, while Ricky Ponting stated he "wouldn't have any problem with it at all".
"If the hierarchy at Cricket Australia have an issue with him ever being captain again, they would have given him a life ban, wouldn't they?" Ponting said last month.