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Australia urged to give up on Steve Smith as Test opener for India tour, Australia vs New Zealand, news, statistics

SportsAustralia urged to give up on Steve Smith as Test opener for India tour, Australia vs New Zealand, news, statistics


Australia has been urged to abandon the Steve Smith experiment despite coach Andrew McDonald claiming criticism of the newly-converted opener was “harsh” and “unfair”.

Smith has averaged 28.50 since reinventing himself as an opener following David Warner’s Test retirement, passing 12 just twice in eight knocks since moving up the order.

He managed 51 runs at 12.75 during the recent Test tour of New Zealand.

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“I don’t think it’s deserved,” McDonald said.

“He’ll be able to work through that. It’s a new challenge for him, it’s a new position.

“If you’re bringing in a new opener and you gave them four Test matches, and then said, ‘Okay, we’re going to shift that after four Test matches,’ would you think that’s fair or unfair?

“I think that’s reasonably unfair … for Test matches, this is still a rather small sample size.”

But with eight months until Australia’s next Test match until hosting India on home soil in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy (late November), questions are being asked as to whether Australia should move on from Smith as an opener.

Veteran broadcaster Gerard Whateley told SEN that eight innings from Smith was a large enough sample size to prove the concept ‘doesn’t work’.

Steve Smith struggled in New Zealand.
Steve Smith struggled in New Zealand.Source: Getty Images

“I feel passionately that the top six in that order is not my batting line-up for the first Test against India,” Whateley said on SEN.

“It’s no longer a small sample size. There is enough to judge. In that configuration, it lacks chemistry and it lacks runs and I don’t think Australia would get away with it against India.

“I would undo everything they’ve done. This was never the selectors’ idea, it was never their way they were putting Smith up, it was Smith volunteering … we’ve seen it, it doesn’t work.”

His suggestion was not to abandon the selectors’ ideal on basing an order around including the nations’ best batters – but instead to look to reshuffle the pack.

“I would go back to the original concept,” Whateley added.

“We need the Dave Warner replacement at the top of the order for the chemistry and dynamic, and that player is in the top six.

“It’s Travis Head, who is now totally out of form at (number) five.”

“If you want to hold to your top six of your six best batters in the country – and they are resolute on that front – I would have Head open with Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne at three, Smith at four, Cameron Green at five and Mitch Marsh at six. I think that makes much more sense than what they’re doing at the moment.”

Smith managed just one half-century since moving to opener.Source: Getty Images

Whateley added that the Smith move up the order would be ‘easily undone’ given the plan was first floated by the batter himself rather than the selectors.

“The total get out is it was never their idea,” he said.

“It was never the selectors’ plan to do this, so it’s easily undone. It’s much easier to undo than stubbornly stick with.”

It comes after legendary former Australian opener Matthew Hayden declared he wanted a specialist opener in the position – and warned that having Smith and Khawaja together leaves Australia vulnerable when the pair retire.

“I want an opener in there,” Hayden told the Willow Talk podcast.

“Why I suppose I’m protective of the spot is because I love the theory or the principle that Australian cricket has worked on. And that is that you promote people where they’re working towards playing for Australia, their states are working towards playing for Australia. Otherwise it unintentionally belittles the whole set-up of cricket in this country and the pathways.

“Now I’m not suggesting that’s what they’re doing, because they rightfully said ‘we just want to pick our top seven batters’. Well fair enough.

“You can’t argue with Steve Smith being one of those. You can’t argue with him batting in a position which is outside his natural game. He averages 64 batting four.”

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He added: “For me, it’s not so much the decision now, it’s the decision when two positions get extricated – that’s going to be Usman Khawaja in the next few years and that’s going to be Steve Smith. Then all of a sudden you have to rebuild!”

Hayden in January also told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I just can’t see how strategically that [Smith opening] is going to work for Cricket Australia. They will need someone more concrete than that. When you look at the success over the last two years of this Test team, it’s been based on a very solid foundation.

“It’s been such a key structure – that number one to four set in stone has been gold for Cricket Australia.”



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