Jake Lehmann has tipped out Australia's T20 vice-captain Alex Carey to be South Australia's stand-in skipper following Travis Head's call-up to the national Test squad.
With Head ruled out of the JLT One-Day Cup after he was named for Australia's tour of the UAE, the Redbacks confirmed their squad and new skipper today ahead of their tournament opener on September 20.
"I want the boys to have fun, enjoy their cricket, execute their skills and feel comfortable playing the cricket we want to play," Lehmann said.
Carey has so impressed Australian cricket’s key decision-makers this year that he was elevated to be Aaron Finch's deputy in the national T20 side just six months after making his international debut.
But the fact Carey has no experience captaining a side, while Lehmann has skippered at grade level and also during pre-season trial games while Head and Carey have been absent, meant the son of the former Australian head coach got the nod.
Veterans Callum Ferguson and Tom Cooper have both captained South Australia when Head has been unavailable in previous seasons, but the Redbacks have looked to the future.
"Alex just hasn't done any captaincy whereas Jake has captained his club side and done a fair bit in the practice matches so far," coach Jamie Siddons told cricket.com.au last week when discussing potential replacements should Head earn a call-up.
"We never (name an official vice-captain). We have an idea of who it would be and we just fill the role when someone gets taken to the Australian team."
Lehmann unashamedly enjoys the lighter side of life and the game, but teammate Dan Worrall says his affable nature belies a fierce determination that has earned him the respect of his teammates.
"No doubt he's a larrikin," Worrall told cricket.com.au. "He's a lovable bloke who loves the social side of professional cricket and relationship building.
"But over the last 12-18 months he's developed into the hardest-working and best communicator and man manager.
"He's become almost an inspiration for the guys ... (with) the way he trains, whether it's skills or running or gym or yoga.
"He's really impressed the hierarchy who have picked him as captain, but also the playing group have come to really look up to him and we're excited for him to be skipper."
Siddons says Carey has all the hallmarks of a future leader, but concedes he was surprised to see the 27-year-old elevated to a leadership role in the Australian side so soon.
"That he's been made vice-captain (of Australia's T20 team), I think was a little bit of a surprise," he said.
"He shows every attribute of a great leader. The only thing that's probably missing is the captaincy of teams.
"He's got a lot of good players around him and it is a vice-captaincy role, not a captaincy role. So I guess it'll be a great learning curve for him to sit underneath someone and have those senior players around him.
"He's got all the attributes of a really good captain, he just needs to find his feet in relation to fields and bowling changes and the other things that go with it."
Head's Test call-up is a huge blow to South Australia's hopes of a breakthrough JLT Cup title, but it's also a boost for a state that has managed to produce only a handful of Test players in recent years.
"I'm really impressed with Travis Head," new coach Justin Langer said of the left-hander.
"(He's a) young captain for South Australia, he has a knack of making runs. He’s a bit unorthodox, but he’s a terrific young bloke."
SA's JLT Cup squad: Jake Lehmann (c), Alex Carey, Tom Cooper, Callum Ferguson, Spencer Johnson, Joe Mennie, Harry Nielsen , Kane Richardson, Alex Ross, Chadd Sayers, Cameron Valente, Jake Weatherald, Daniel Worrall, Adam Zampa