Australia coach backs Smith for India Test series

Steve Smith, the legendary Australian batsman, has faced an unfamiliar challenge in recent times – opening the Test innings. While some pundits question this move, the Australian coach, Andrew McDonald, has thrown his weight behind Smith, indicating he’ll likely retain the position for the crucial Border-Gavaskar Trophy against India later this year.

Steve Smith’s batting prowess is undeniable. Ranked among the world’s elite batsmen, his technique and temperament have tormented bowlers for over a decade. However, his recent transition to Test opener has sparked debate. After David Warner’s Test retirement, Smith slotted into the vacant spot, but his performances in the New Zealand series – a meager 51 runs in four innings – raised concerns.

Despite the underwhelming scores, Australian coach Andrew McDonald has expressed his faith in Smith. This article delves into the reasons behind McDonald’s backing, explores the arguments for and against Smith as opener, and analyzes the potential impact on the upcoming India series.

Backing Smith: McDonald’s Rationale
  • Experience and Grit: McDonald highlights Smith’s experience as a key factor. He argues that Smith’s temperament and ability to handle pressure situations are invaluable assets at the top of the order. Smith’s technique and mental fortitude have been honed through years of batting in crucial middle-order positions.
  • Building a Strong Foundation: The coach emphasizes the importance of building a solid foundation for the innings. Smith’s classical technique and ability to occupy the crease can provide stability at the start, allowing the more aggressive batsmen to flourish later.
  • Team Balance and Continuity: McDonald acknowledges the recent struggles but believes in giving Smith time to adjust. He emphasizes the team’s recent success – winning eight out of their last 12 Tests – and highlights the importance of maintaining a settled batting order, especially with a crucial series against India looming.
Arguments for Smith as Opener
  • Adaptability and Shot Selection: Proponents of Smith at the top order argue that his adaptability is a major advantage. His ability to switch between defense and attack, and to play different bowling styles, makes him well-suited to the challenges of opening the batting.
  • Countering Swing Bowling: Some experts believe Smith’s technique, with its emphasis on a strong defense, can be particularly effective against swing bowling, a significant threat in Indian conditions. His ability to leave the ball effectively can blunt the opening spells and frustrate the Indian pace attack.
  • Leadership by Example: Smith’s experience and leadership qualities are also seen as positives. Opening the batting can set the tone for the innings, and Smith’s composed presence at the crease can inspire the younger members of the batting lineup.
Arguments Against Smith as Opener
  • Early Dismissals Hurt Momentum: Critics point to Smith’s recent string of low scores in New Zealand, arguing that losing a key batsman early can put undue pressure on the middle order. They believe a more aggressive opener might be better suited to setting the tempo, particularly in away matches.
  • Impact on Middle-Order Batting: Some argue that Smith’s presence at the top disrupts the established middle-order, where his experience and technique are arguably more valuable. A specialist opener could free up Smith to play his natural game at number three or four.
  • Psychological Impact of Change: Shifting a batsman of Smith’s caliber to a new role can be mentally challenging. The pressure of opening and the initial struggles might affect his overall batting form, potentially impacting his confidence.
The Road Ahead: India and Beyond

The upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy against India will be a significant test for Smith and the Australian batting line-up. India’s spin attack is renowned, and the pitches can be challenging for batsmen.

If Smith can overcome his recent slump and adapt to the opening role in these conditions, it will be a major boost for Australia’s chances. His experience and technique can be invaluable against a world-class bowling attack.

However, if the struggles continue, the selectors might be forced to reconsider their stance. Marnus Labuschagne, the current number three batsman, has experience opening in first-class cricket and could be a potential alternative.


Steve Smith’s role as Test opener for Australia remains a talking point. While coach Andrew McDonald has expressed his backing, the upcoming India series will be a critical juncture. Smith’s success or failure at the top of the order will not only impact the outcome of the series but also shape Australia’s batting strategy for the future.

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