T20 World Cup: Does Steve Smith still deserve a place in the Australian team?

The emergence of an exciting new talent is generally good news for selectors and team management. But the wise men of Australia have been caught in a pickle by the rapid, and giant, strides made by Cameron Green.

The big-built all-rounder, who is not in the Aussie squad for the T20 World Cup, made people sit up and take notice after excelling at the top of the order, where he had not batted at all through his still-nascent career.

There are other pressing issues facing the selectors – namely Steve Smith’s utility in the T20 format, the fitness or otherwise of Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh, both of whom played big roles in Australia’s title run last year, where to fit Tim David’s attacking talents, and will skipper Aaron Finch open the batting.

It’s Smith, a proven performer in the other two formats, who seems most vulnerable if the selectors ignore emotion. His strength is knocking the ball around into gaps and finding the odd boundary when the others around him can clear the rope almost at will.

If everyone is fit and available, one can see Australia going with the same batting line-up – order flexible – with the only change being David in Smith’s place.

The former skipper’s only case for retention could be the bigger Australian grounds and the probability of early wickets lost, when his skills and more conservative style of batting may come in handy. But teams these days usually keep on attacking throughout the innings, even if they lose a few batsmen along the way. Smith’s recent annual strike rates in T20Is have been 97.18 in 2021 (4 innings) and 120.51 in 2022 thus far (9 innings), much lower than the norm for the rest of the Australian batting order.

In contrast, David, who admittedly has just started playing for Australia, has a strike rate of 165.95 over seven matches.

It can be argued that if Green was included in the squad, Smith would most likely be on the outside looking in.

With the fitness of the seam-bowling all-rounders still not certain, and Finch searching for his best form after retiring from ODIs, there are more questions than answers.

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