Andrew McDonald makes call on Steve Smith's future amid pleas to end Test experiment

Calls have been growing louder for the Steve Smith experiment at opener to end.

Australia coach Andrew McDonald has thrown his support behind the under-fire Steve Smith, amid growing calls from around the cricket world to move him back down the Test batting order. A common consensus for fans is that the Smith experiment at opener has failed, with former captain Tim Paine among those arguing that the side is better with the veteran at No.4.

Smith's numbers since he replaced David Warner at the top of the order hardly make a convincing argument for the 34-year-old. His last eight innings include scores of 12, 11 not out, 6, 91 not out, 31 0, 9 and 11, with his one and only half century coming against the West Indies.

Pictured left to right, Andrew McDonald and Steve Smith.
Australia coach Andrew McDonald has backed Steve Smith at opener despite criticism about the move from around the cricket world. Pic: Getty

Arguably the greatest Aussie batter of this generation, Smith made just 51 runs across the two Tests against New Zealand at 12.75. In Australia's epic second Test victory over New Zealand in Christchurch, Smith was out LBW in both innings of the same Test match for the first time in 10 years.

With his average once sitting well above 60, the 34-year-old has now dropped below 57 after a lean year. To add further insult, his ICC Test rankings points have slipped below 800 for the first time since 2014. Despite the underwhelming start to Smith's life as a Test opener though, McDonald says it's too early to judge the 34-year-old.

Andrew McDonald backs Steve Smith to solve opening puzzle

"He is a great player and his ability to problem-solve is one of his great strengths. He's been challenged in these conditions (in New Zealand)," Australia's coach said about Smith. "He's up for the challenge. Anytime that Steve Smith fails, he sees it as a greater challenge.

"Walking away here with 51 runs (from four innings) in tough conditions, that'll no doubt drive him to the next challenge. That next challenge is India (and) it will be an internal motivator for him. He wants to open... we think he can make it work."

Steve Smith trudges off after being dismissed for 11 in Australia's first innings of the second Test against New Zealand. Pic: Getty
Steve Smith trudges off after being dismissed for 11 in Australia's first innings of the second Test against New Zealand. Pic: Getty

The reality for Smith and the rest of Australia's Test squad is they now won't feature in another red-ball match until November when the mighty India tour our shores. Several members of the squad will be involved in June's Twenty20 World Cup but the New Zealand series completed a gruelling 15 months of cricket for Australia involving two home summer Test series, a Test tour of India, the World Test Championship final, the Ashes and one-day World Cup.

"We talked about this game being a game to reward ourselves on the journey that we've been on," McDonald said after his men rebounded from being down 4-34 to chasing down New Zealand's 279-run target in the second Test in Christchurch. "Four for 34 - not ideal - and we've probably found ourselves in those situations a little bit too often," the Aussie coach conceded.

Aussie Test XI settled despite Tim Paine criticism

"But the real positive is that we're able to work our way through that and find a way to win." McDonald said the "incredible achievement" deserved recognition and echoed skipper Pat Cummins' assertion that they wouldn't be making any "rash changes" to the side.

"We feel we've got a group that can carry us through that next phase. That's not to say there won't be changes," McDonald said. "It's going to be a hard group to infiltrate. It's going to take something special."


McDonald's comments come after former Test captain Paine suggested Australia's batting concerns were evident for all to see. “We’re a better team than them (New Zealand) and it was the same against the West Indies, there seems to be a bit of a pattern," Paine said. Not scoring enough runs.

"You can’t always believe what they’re telling you, but the leadership and coaching and captain and selectors say, ‘We have no concerns with our batters’. Well, I do now. I think all of Australia does... there are more questions coming out of the last three or four Tests than answers, and we need to find some answers pretty quickly...

"We’ve lost a Test to West Indies, we wouldn’t beat England if they were playing well with a full-strength side. India are certainly going to trouble us with Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, so there are some concerns. Internally, they must be speaking about it.”

with AAP

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