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South Africa series chance for Steve Smith to take his T20 opening form into international cricket, says Tim Paine

South Africa series chance for Steve Smith to take his T20 opening form into international cricket, says Tim Paine. Image Source: IANS News

Hobart, Aug 11 : Former Australia Test captain Tim Paine has responded to Michael Clarke’s comments on Steve Smith earmarked to play as an opener in T20Is against South Africa, insisting that the selection panel led by George Bailey has given him a chance to take T20 opening batting form into international cricket.

Smith will be opening the batting for Australia in the T20I series in South Africa, a role he will be taking for the first time. He had made just one appearance in the 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup and scored just one fifty in his last 23 T20I innings.

But Smith reminded people of his T20 prowess with back-to-back centuries for the Sydney Sixers in last season’s BBL, thus paving the way for him to be back in Australia’s T20I frame. His return, though, left Clarke dismayed, pointing out that Smith doesn’t even have an IPL gig.

“Steve Smith, as great a player as he is, no one will ever deny that, particularly in the lead-up to that World Cup, was not playing well. If you go back to the Dubai World Cup (2021), people were saying why is he still in the team?”

“Then he was replaced by Tim David, which most people had no issues with and I think if you go even deeper than that, and you look at why he wasn’t playing…in his 20 innings leading up to that in T20, he was averaging low 20s at a very low strike rate and when you want to be batting at no.4 or no.5, that just doesn’t cut it.”

“So that’s why he wasn’t playing at the position in the team was a middle-order spot where you want power and that doesn’t suit Steve Smith. Fast forward to now, circumstances have completely changed,” said Paine on SEN Radio.

As Paine said, Smith enjoyed a brilliant BBL season 12 campaign, where he played only five games but averaged an astonishing 86.5. Moreover, a spot at the top of the order is vacant since Aaron Finch’s international retirement.

“It’s not embarrassing, the facts are the circumstances have changed. You’ve got a spot that’s opened up since Aaron Finch retired. Since he’s retired, Steve Smith – who has struggled traditionally in T20 – has gone back to the Big Bash and absolutely dominated as an opening batter and demanded selection in Aaron Finch’s spot, probably ahead of Travis Head, he would have been the other option to open the batting.”

“So to say it was embarrassing, I think it’s actually really clear why he wasn’t playing when he wasn’t playing and now he’s got a chance. It doesn’t mean he’s going to play all the time but he’s got a chance in South Africa to take his T20 form opening the batting into international cricket and if he can do that, he’ll keep playing. If he doesn’t then Travis Head or someone like that will be knocking on the door to take his spot,” he concluded.

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