Opinion piece by Sam Landsberger in Herald Sun.....
IT has been a long time since Steve Smith played Twenty20 cricket for Australia.
The best Test batsman since Sir Donald Bradman last pulled on the T20 pyjamas 696 days ago, when Australia was eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage.
Last month an exhausted Smith handed the reins to David Warner for the T20 triseries, opting to ready himself for the Test tour of South Africa.
Australia entered the series ranked No.7 in the world — “completely unacceptable”, new T20 assistant coach Ricky Ponting said at the time.
Tonight Warner’s team will look to take Australia to No.1 by winning the final against New Zealand in Auckland.
The side has strutted to five consecutive wins under Warner’s upbeat leadership and with a line-up stacked with specialist big-hitting batsmen.
The top order comprises Warner, Big Bash blaster D’Arcy Short, six-machine Chris Lynn at No.3, Ponting’s pupil Glenn Maxwell at No.4 and Aaron Finch at No.5.
It is a line-up loaded with matchwinning firepower, and it is batting without fear.
The swift rankings rise illustrates the volatility of the ICC points system, but the lethal batting mix has Australian fans asking big questions.
1) Should Smith retain the captaincy?
2) Who should he replace in the team?
3) Should he return at all?
Warner’s explosive top five all boast T20 international strike-rates higher than Smith’s 122.4, and, like Ponting, who is being groomed as the specialist T20 coach, this is their most natural format.
But as the best since Bradman, and after Indian Premier League team Rajasthan Royals retained him for a staggering $2.4 million, Smith’s ability is unquestioned.
There is little doubt he will be part of Australia’s 2020 T20 World Cup campaign at home.
But the answers to the other two questions are in play. Is he the right man to captain?
“It’s up to Steve,” Warner said yesterday. “If he thinks his workloads are too high and he doesn’t feel like he can do that, then I’m sure he’ll put his hand up and step aside.”
As for the team, where does Smith bat? Who makes way?
He won’t replace Warner and Short’s best position is opener, having cracked a BBLrecord 572 runs this summer.
Lynn became the first player to hit 100 BBL sixes, so how could you not select him?
Maxwell is a matchwinner, and Finch has scored 56 unbeaten runs off 19 balls in his new position at No.5.
Maybe it is No.6 Marcus Stoinis who makes way, but that weakens the bowling.
It’s a tricky situation — fancy having trouble fitting in the world’s best batsman