Tim Paine fires back at Michael Clarke over 'embarrassing' Steve Smith claim

The former Test cricket captains have clashed over Steve Smith's selection as opener for Australia's T20 side.

Michael Clarke and Tim Paine. Image: Getty
Michael Clarke's comments have been rebuked by Tim Paine. Image: Getty

Tim Paine has hit back at Michael Clarke's criticism of Aussie cricket selectors over the decision to elevate Steve Smith to opener for the upcoming T20 series against South Africa. Clarke was left gobsmacked this week when chief selector George Bailey revealed Smith will open in the three-game series due to his stunning form at the end of the BBL last season.

Clarke labelled it an 'embarrassing' backflip after Smith was only selected to play one game at last year's T20 World Cup when the Aussies failed to reach the semi-finals. “I don’t understand (Smith’s selection) … that to me is embarrassing for the selectors,” Clarke said on Sky Sports radio on Tuesday. “They had him in the World Cup squad last year, and he couldn’t make the XI.

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“He doesn’t get a game, we go terribly in the World Cup. Selections over the past 15 months have been absolutely confusing. Smith not playing in that World Cup, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“There’s just no accountability. It’s just swept under the carpet. I feel like I’m just watching a different game. I don’t know what they’re thinking with Smithy in the T20s. I don’t think he’s playing any other T20 cricket around the world. He’s not getting a gig in the IPL, didn’t get picked up there. He must still want to play though.”

Tim Paine hits back at Michael Clarke

But former Test captain Paine has now fired back in a fierce defence of good mate Bailey. “It’s not embarrassing,” Paine said on SEN radio. “The facts are the circumstances have changed. You’ve got a spot that’s opened up since Aaron Finch has retired.

“Since he’s retired, Steve Smith – who has struggled traditionally in T20 – has gone back to the Big Bash and absolutely dominated as an opening batter and demanded selection in Aaron Finch’s spot, probably ahead of Travis Head.

”He would have been the other option to open the batting. So to say it was embarrassing, I think it’s actually really clear why he wasn’t playing when he wasn’t playing and now he’s got a chance.

“It doesn’t mean he’s going to play all the time, but he’s got a chance in South Africa to take his T20 form opening the batting into international cricket and if he can do that, he’ll keep playing. If he doesn’t then Travis Head or someone like that will be knocking on the door to take his spot.”

Steve Smith at the T20 World Cup in 2022.
Steve Smith only played one game at the T20 World Cup in 2022. (Photo by Mark Brake-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Steve Smith demanded selection as T20 opener

After he was largely overlooked at the T20 World Cup, Smith made an emphatic statement in the BBL with two centuries while opening the batting. With David Warner resting for the South Africa series, Smith was an irresistible choice.

“He’s the one guy out of that multi-format players heading across (for the T20s). We wanted to give him that opportunity,” Bailey said on Monday. “It was pretty exhilarating, his innings in the Big Bash, and I thought it highlighted the skill set he has and what he can do. The way he played in the Big Bash, we wanted to see that replicated internationally.

“He was really keen to come across and be a part of that. That may mean he has a rest through a couple of the one-dayers (against South Africa). Certainly excited to see him bring that Big Bash opening outlook into that role internationally.”

Australia T20 squad:

Mitchell Marsh (c), Sean Abbott, Jason Behrendorff, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Aaron Hardie, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Spencer Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Short, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa

Australia ODI squad:

Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Aaron Hardie, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tanveer Sangha, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa

T20s v South Africa:

  • August 31

  • September 2

  • September 3

ODIs v South Africa:

  • September 7

  • September 9

  • September 12

  • September 15

  • September 17

ODIs v India:

  • September 22

  • September 24

  • September 27

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