Should he be employed in the hosts’ championship defense, Australia’s Steve Smith believes he can contribute more to this year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign.
Smith struggled to find a place in Australia’s T20I team in recent years, frequently being used to rebuild an innings after a shaky start. He scored just 69 runs over four innings in the previous season.
The 33-year-old feels he can be a significant asset in national colours despite worries that his game is not suited to the shortest format, as evidenced by a knock of 37* (27) that helped the team to a series victory against Sri Lanka in June.
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“I feel like when I’m playing good T20 cricket, I’m in that team for sure,” Smith told reporters on Tuesday.
“I think the role that I’ve been given in the last couple of years is the Mr Fix-it sort of role, and that tag’s been taken away from me now (since) the Sri Lanka tour.”
Smith has played several quick strikes in Australian colours despite not being recognized for his strength with the bat; all four of his half-centuries in T20Is came at a strike rate of more than 140.
Smith believes he can complement players like Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, and others around by increasing the run rate in the middle order, either by producing alarming totals or by pursuing targets in front of the home crowd.
“I felt like I could go out and just play with a lot more freedom naturally (in Sri Lanka) and not have any kind of hesitation in the back of my mind like I need to be a bit more reserved or anything.”
“I can just take the game on and if I want to smack someone for six first ball, then I’m able to do that freely. When I’m playing my best, I play freely. I watch the ball and hit the gaps and just look to use the middle of my bat as much as possible.”
Meanwhile, Mitchell Marsh’s ankle injury has dealt Australia’s tournament preparations a small setback.
The Australians are planning to take the all-rounder to India in late September, with a three-match T20I series being the best preparation for their championship defense. The all-rounder is expected to miss ODI Super League matches against Zimbabwe and New Zealand.
Smith and Marsh are competitors for the No. 3 place, but Smith noted that his teammate will be crucial to the home campaign.
“It’s not ideal for Mitch. He’s been playing some really good white-ball cricket recently.”
“He was a big part of our T20 World Cup campaign last year and I’m sure there are big plans for him this year, so I think the priority is to get him right for that.”
Australia’s T20 World Cup defense begins on 22 October, when they take on New Zealand in a re-match of 2021 final in Sydney.
Mitchell Marsh was ruled out of ODIs with priority given to T20 World Cup
Despite “minimal ankle pain,” the all-around player will be able to participate in the next India tour.
Due to a minor ankle injury, Mitchell Marsh will not be able to play in the upcoming ODIs against Zimbabwe and New Zealand. However, he will be eligible to play in the T20 tour of India beginning in January ahead of the World Cup in Australia.
Josh Inglis, a wicketkeeper-batter from Western Australia who played for London Spirit in the Hundred and took Glenn Maxwell’s place, has been called up as a replacement.
Marsh’s issue was defined as “mild ankle pain,” and because the T20 World Cup, where Marsh will be a crucial member of the team at No. 3, is just around the corner, precaution is being exercised. In the first ODI, he was the first-change bowler and recorded 1 for 22 before going down for 2 during the run chase.
“It’s not ideal for Mitch,” Steven Smith said. “He’s been playing some really good white-ball cricket recently and the way we set up our team the other day with bulk all-rounders; he was a big part of that. Disappointing for Mitch but there’s some pretty important stuff coming up, he was a big part of the T20 World Cup campaign last year and sure there are big plans for him this year so the priority is to get him right for that.”
Marsh’s absence may alter the balance of Australia’s side for the second match in Townsville, although Sean Abbott and Ashton Agar are both parts of the squad if they want to retain the all-rounder-heavy route which has seen Cameron Green at No. 8, he may now get the chance higher up the order.
Smith described the pitch for the opening match as “pretty challenging” with spin and seam on offer but was pleased with his first outing of the season.
“The ball was seaming around a fair bit, there was a bit bounce and the spin was pretty hard to line up as well,” he said. “Some were going straight and some were taking off and bouncing so it wasn’t easy, but good to spend time out there and sure it will serve me well.”
As Australia prepares for the World Cup next year, Smith has been firmly established at No. 3 in the ODI squad and stated that it was “definitely” where he liked to bat. He continued, “That’s where my record is strongest.
Australia’s optional training session on Tuesday was hampered by rain, but the weather was expected to clear up for the game.
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