Australia coach backs struggling Smith for India Test series

Australia coach backs struggling Smith for India Test series

Melbourne, Mar 12: Australia coach Andrew McDonald has admitted it would take something special to oust veteran batsman Steve Smith from his new role as opener for the side’s next ICC World Test Championship assignment against India at the end of the year.

Smith has managed just 171 runs at an average of 28.50 since being promoted to the crucial role of opener in Australia’s Test side and the 34-year-old contributed only 51 runs from four knocks during the recently-completed 2-0 series victory over New Zealand.

Australia great Ricky Ponting has already come out on the latest episode of The ICC Review and indicated he expects Smith to sneak into the Aussies’ 15-player squad for June’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the USA and Caribbean and McDonald believes the right-hander will be difficult to budge when the reigning World Test Championship winners face their next red-ball series.

McDonald pointed to Australia’s recent good form in the Test arena that has seen them climb to second on the World Test Championship standings and said that he expects Smith to remain a key member of their starting side when India renew acquaintances for the five-match Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy commencing in November.

“That’s not to say there won’t be changes, but at the moment we’ve won 2-0 here, and had a 12-Test run where we won eight with (four) of those being away from home (in England and New Zealand),” McDonald said.

“It’s going to be a hard group to infiltrate, it will take something special I think. No doubt everyone is still asking the question around Steve Smith. He is a great player and his ability to problem solve is one of his great strengths.

“He’s been challenged in these conditions as the surfaces have been new-ball wickets, and no doubt there will be a debate as to what his best position is. But he’s up for the challenge, and I think any time that Steve Smith fails he sees it as a greater challenge,” he said.

McDonald expects Smith to work hard against any deficiencies against the new-ball and come back as a better opener when the India series commences.

“Walking away here (in New Zealand) with 51 runs under his belt in tough conditions, that will no doubt drive him for the next challenge and that next challenge is India,” McDonald noted.

“They await, and I think it will be an internal motivator for him. He wants to open, it’s a position that he came to us around and we think he can make it work,” he said.

McDonald suggested any criticism of Smith as an opener was unfair and that the right-hander needed an extended period at the top before he could be judged externally.

“I think it’s unfair, and that will probably mean I’m going into defensive mode around my player,” McDonald said.

“I don’t think it’s deserved. He’ll be able to work through that, it’s a new challenge for him, it’s a new position.

And 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,” he said.

UNI

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