Former skipper Ian Chappell says star batsman Steve Smith might get back the Australia captaincy despite his involvement in the infamous ball-tampering scandal in 2018 if there is no other choice to replace Tim Paine.

Paine’s performance behind the wicket and his tactics as captain in the just-concluded Test series against India which Australia lost 1-2 were severely criticised by former players.

Alongside vice-captain Pat Cummins, the 31-year-old Smith seemed to be a front runner if Paine is to be replaced as Test skipper as a fallout of Test series loss to India. Smith’s two-year leadership ban following the “sandpaper-gate” scandal in South Africa under his captaincy ended last year.

“Yeah sure, he might get the captaincy again but I think it’s only going to be in the circumstances where there’s not much other choice,” Chappell, who captained Australia from 1971-1975, told Wide World of Sports.

Chappell questioned why Smith is eligible to captain Australia again while David Warner has a lifetime leadership ban. He said Smith’s “crime” in the ball-tampering scandal was greater than that of Warner, his deputy at that time.

Smith was stripped of the captaincy and banned from leading Australia for two years while his deputy Warner was handed a lifelong leadership ban, for their roles in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

“Why aren’t Smith and Warner in the same category? If Smith only gets a 12 (24) month ban on captaincy, why doesn’t Warner only get that?” Chappell asked.

“Or if Warner gets a lifetime ban on captaincy, why doesn’t Smith? Because Smith’s crime in my eyes was greater than Warner’s.”

Television footage had shown Cameron Bancroft taking a yellow object out of his pocket while fielding in the post-lunch session and appearing to rub it on the ball. He was later charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball.

According to a Cricket Australia’s investigation held in the aftermath of the incident, while Smith and Bancroft knew what they were getting into, it was Warner who had developed the “plan to attempt to artificially alter the condition of the ball”

Despite taking the lead in the series after a thumping win in Adelaide, Australia went on to lose the series 2-1 after defeats in Melbourne and Brisbane. The hosts were in a winning position in Sydney and also in Brisbane but let the advantage slip. At Gabba, they allowed India to chase down the target of 328 to lose the series.

(With PTI inputs)