Peter FitzSimons cops backlash over comment about Steve Smith amid cricket debate

Smith's spot at opener in the Aussie Test side has come under enormous scrutiny.

Former Wallaby and media personality Peter FitzSimons has been told to "chill" by veteran ABC cricket commentator Jim Maxwell after suggesting Steve Smith should be replaced by Cameron Bancroft as Australia's opener. Calls have been growing louder for the Aussies to end the Smith experiment at opener, following another disappointing Test series in the clean sweep over New Zealand.

Smith's average since taking over retired Test great David Warner at the top of the order is just 28.5 and he made just 51 runs across the two Tests against New Zealand at 12.75. Smith's scores in his eight innings so far at opener read 12, 11 not out, 6, 91 not out, 31, 0, 11 and 9 and he's just slipped two spots to No.5 in the ICC's Test batting rankings.

On the right is Peter FitzSimons and Aussie cricket star Steve Smith on the left.
Peter FitzSimons has seen enough of Steve Smith at opener and wants the Aussie cricket star replaced at the top of the order. Pic: Getty

The veteran's average used to be comfortably above 60 but has now dropped below 57, with former captain Tim Paine among those insisting the Aussie side is better with Smith batting down the order. FitzSimons has also seen enough of Smith at opener and in Sydney Morning Herald column titled, 'Steve Smith must go, and here is the opener to take his place', he pushed the case for Western Australia's Bancroft to come into the side.

“Allan Border once told me that he knew it was time to retire when, by the time he realised the ideal stroke was a cut-shot or the like, the ball was past him and in the hands of the wicketkeeper,” FitzSimons wrote. “Right now – at least to my neophyte eyes – Smith looks just a little like that. Instead of the fluid strokes we are used to, regularly rattling the picket fences, much of his stuff seems stuttering and unsure.”

Peter FitzSimons wants Cameron Bancroft to open for Australia

FitzSimons conceded Smith was the "finest Australian batsman of his generation” but argued that Bancroft's weight of runs in the Sheffield Shield presented a "compelling" case for him to open for Australia. Matthew Renshaw was preferred to Bancroft when Australia named its first squad after Warner's retirement, despite Bancroft being the leading run-scorer in Shield cricket for two straight years.

The West Australian opener hit 945 runs in 2022/23 at an average of 59.06 and is the second-ighest run-scorer this season with 778 runs at 48.62 and just a home final against Tasmania to come. However, Renshaw actually has a higher average than Bancroft since the beginning of the 2022/23 Shield season - 52.7 compared to 46.8.

Pictured left to right, Matt Renshaw and Cameron Bancroft.
Matt Renshaw and Cameron Bancroft were both touted as potential successors to David Warner as Aussie Test opener. Pic: Getty

Bancroft and Renshaw have both failed to really take advantage of opportunities they've both received at Test level, with the former averaging 26.2 from 18 innings and the latter 29.3 from 24 innings. The numbers are far from the "compelling" case FitzSimons has argued in favour of Bancroft's Test selection, with veteran ABC commentator Maxwell insisting it's too early to jettison Smith.

“Won’t happen. Next test in November so sit still,” Maxwell wrote on X in response to FitzSimons' column. “How do you improve the top six ? You don’t... yet. Smith did carry his bat 5 innings ago and opening is a tough gig. Bancroft’s requiem was written when he wasn’t picked for the Ashes. And no one catches better than Smith. Chill.” Plenty of others shared similar sentiments.

Australia coach backs Steve Smith at opener

Crucially, Smith has been given the backing of both skipper Pat Cummins and coach Andrew McDonald, who backed the veteran to rise to the challenge of opener during Australia's next Test series against India, starting in November. "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...

"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... (but) it's going to be a hard group to infiltrate. It's going to take something special."