Andrew McDonald on Steve Smith opening, video, highlights, cricket news 2024


Australian coach Andrew McDonald believes it’s too early to judge Steve Smith’s effectiveness as an opener, labelling the recent criticism as “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.

The New South Welshman compiled 51 runs at 12.75 during the recent Test tour of New Zealand, with captain Pat Cummins (79 runs at 26.33) and tailender Nathan Lyon (66 runs at 22.00) outscoring him throughout the campaign.

It was statistically the worst performance by an Australian Test opener in New Zealand in 24 years, prompting speculation over whether Smith is better suited in the middle order.

However, speaking to reporters after Australia’s tense three-wicket victory over the Black Caps in Christchurch, McDonald argued the commentary around Smith’s batting was premature.

“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.”

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Smith’s elevation to opener allowed all-rounder Cameron Green to slot into his preferred position at No. 4, a gamble that paid off in Wellington last week when the West Australian plundered a career-best 174 not out against the Black Caps.

McDonald clarified that Smith was still motivated by the challenge of opening, suggesting the right-hander would get another opportunity to prove himself at the top of the order next summer.

“No doubt everyone is still asking the question around Steve Smith,” McDonald continued.

“He is a great player, and his ability to problem solve is one of his great strengths.

“He’s been challenged in these conditions.

“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.

“So walking away here 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.

“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.”

Steve Smith of Australia. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Steve Smith of Australia. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Australia does not have another Test match scheduled until next season’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy campaign against India on home soil, which gets underway in late November.

The eight-month hiatus meant McDonald couldn’t guarantee selection for the series opener against India, but the Victorian admitted he did not expect any significant changes to the starting XI.

“It’s going to be a hard group to infiltrate, it will take something special,” McDonald said.

“We’ve got seven or eight months before we have to pick the next team so now we’ve got an opportunity here to take some time, assess where everything’s at. And then make some decisions from there.

“I’m always a believer in making a decision when you need to make the decision, and now’s not the time for that.”


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