It is difficult to see how Smith fits in the starting XI with two weeks until Australia’s tournament kicks off.
Steven Smith is aware that now that he is no longer known as “Mr. Fix it,” he must demonstrate his intent.
“Just having that more attacking mindset rather than when I was playing that kind of role,” Smith said on Thursday. “I was probably in a more defensive frame of mind and almost just trying to get through without taking the game on as much.”
The issue is that he is not displaying it. Tim David has again demonstrated why he simply cannot be left out of Australia’s top side with a stunning 42 off 20 in Australia’s triumph over West Indies at the Gabba that secured the series 2-0, and he is running out of time before the World Cup.
Smith had the ideal opportunity on Friday. He walked out at No. 4 as Australia continued to tinker with their lineup while Mitchell Marsh was away resting.
However, he had four singles in his first nine balls. He was not only incapable of scoring. In his rage, he hardly made a shot while attempting to get a feel for the tacky court. While everything was going on, David Warner was out for a brilliant 75 off 41 balls in the eleventh over after seeing four straight dot balls at the other end.
Glenn Maxwell was out trying to pinch a single that might not have been there eight balls later as Smith fought for time and attempted to get back on strike.
Smith was not the only person who had difficulty. After switching to No. 3 after batting at No. 4 on Wednesday, Aaron Finch struggled to a painful 15 off 19 with one boundary.
However, Finch is the team’s captain and is expected to start the World Cup unless Cameron Green suffers an injury.
Despite all of Finch’s difficulties in the past year, his strike-rate of 121.17 over that time seems incredible when compared to Smith’s 112.77. In that period, Finch has achieved 20 in more than half of his innings. Smith completed it in only a third of his time.
Even in his best innings, Smith has had trouble making up for slow starts. He was 15 off 17 when he hit his maiden boundary in Pallekele versus Sri Lanka and finished the match with 37 not out from 27. Smith was 9 off 8 against India in Mohali last month, and Green was hitting at 200 at the other end. When the combined strike-rate of the two teams was much above 170, Smith concluded with 35 off 24 swings, striking at 145.83.
In contrast to David, Smith freely acknowledges that he lacks the raw power to close the gap.
“I’m obviously not as strong and powerful as some of the other guys but some wickets entail just being smart and punching the ball and timing the ball really well as well,” Smith said the day before the Gabba match.
Nevertheless, he has not been successful in doing so. Rather than using pure power, Warner’s innings were filled with excellent stroke play. He combined excellent running between the wickets with precise timing. Smith can do that at his finest. However, unlike in Test and 50-over cricket, he has not been able to instill terror in the bowlers of the opposition in T20 cricket.
As it did in franchise cricket all around the world, David’s spectacular hitting would have had Australia’s World Cup opponents cower in fear. David swatted three sixes with a combination of effortless swings and sheer muscle, and Yannic Cariah and Obed McCoy felt the full force of it. Warner was astounded by David’s skills.
David has played the No. 6 place in the order and has displayed tremendous skill and versatility in that role, so while conventional wisdom could regard David’s rise as a danger to Marcus Stoinis, the truth is that David and Stoinis are not comparable because David does not bowl. Australia cannot play four non-bowling batsmen in their top six when Marsh’s bowling fitness is still in doubt. On Sunday in Perth, Stoinis will face England in his return match; he will be healthy and need to bowl.
Smith is now at risk from David the Goliath. The leadership in Australia had faith that Smith will succeed in T20 cricket this year. certain that more repetitions in the middle order would help the team’s top problem solver find a solution to his strike-rate issue.
He now appears unnecessary for a squad that wants to win back the championship.