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If I'm the opposition, I want him opening the batting: Paine on Smith

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If I'm the opposition, I want him opening the batting: Paine on Smith

New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) Former Australia captain Tim Paine has expressed his confidence in Steven Smith’s ability to succeed as an opener despite a challenging start in the role. Smith’s transition to the top of the batting order came in the wake of David Warner’s retirement, a move aimed at reshaping Australia’s lineup.

However, Smith’s performances during Australia’s tour of New Zealand raised questions about his suitability as an opener. Paine acknowledged the concerns, noting that opposition teams might view Smith’s new position as an opportunity to exploit his vulnerabilities early in the innings.

Reflecting on Smith’s struggles in New Zealand, where he managed only 51 runs at an average of 12.75, Paine emphasized the importance of Smith finding his rhythm in the new role. “If I’m the opposition, I want him opening the batting,” Paine remarked, highlighting the strategic advantage for rival bowlers to face Smith with the new ball.

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“I look at it, that if I was playing against Australia, where would I prefer Steve Smith to bat? If I’m the opposition, I want him opening the batting,” Paine told ESPN’s Around The Wicket. “I want my best bowlers at their freshest with a brand new ball. I was in that Ashes in 2019 and went to England with him in another one and when he was at his best batting at four you just felt he couldn’t get out.”

Smith’s elevation to the top to fill the vacancy created by David Warner’s retirement enabled Cameron Green to return at No. 4 and he struck a brilliant unbeaten 174 in the first Test at Wellington.

Despite the criticism, Paine remained optimistic about Smith’s potential as an opener, citing his exceptional talent and adaptability. He stressed that Smith’s ability to bat anywhere in the lineup is a testament to his skill and determination.

“I would love to see him succeed as an opener, I think he can, there’s no doubt about that, he’s good enough to bat anywhere, but as an opposition player I want him at the top of the order because that gives me the best chance of getting him out,” he added.

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Australia’s head coach, Andrew McDonald, echoed Paine’s sentiments, labeling the scrutiny of Smith’s early performances as “unfair.” McDonald emphasized the need for patience and suggested that judging Smith after just four Tests in the new position was premature.

Looking ahead to Australia’s upcoming Test series against India, Paine dismissed suggestions of altering the batting order. He reaffirmed Smith’s position at the top, asserting that Smith has earned the right to bat wherever he desires.

With India likely to field a formidable pace attack led by Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj, Smith’s ability to adapt to his new role will face a stern test. Nevertheless, Paine expressed confidence that Smith’s determination and skill would enable him to overcome any challenges he may encounter.

“I don’t think anything changes,” Paine said of Australia’s batting order. “(Smith) is probably one of three or four players who has ever played for Australia who can probably do what he’s doing at the moment. He’s earned the right, in my opinion, to bat wherever he wants and if he wants, and is driven enough, to be Australia’s Test opener I think he’ll make it work and you’ll see him come out next summer and dominate.”

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Australia will next face India in the Border-Gavaskar trophy in November.

–IANS

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