Former Aussie wicketkeeper Brad Haddin believes in-form superstar Steve Smith must not only return to Australia’s T20 side, but also open the batting.
Haddin’s call came amid Smith’s latest supreme performance with the bat, conjuring 66 runs off just 33 balls in a “brutal” knock, according to Haddin, during the Sydney Sixers’ BBL clash against the Hobart Hurricanes on Monday night.
Opening the batting for the fourth consecutive T20 match, Smith smashed four fours and six sixes as the Hurricanes’ bowling attack had no answers for the in-form right-hander – that was until he was trapped LBW courtesy of a full toss from Nathan Ellis. The bizarre dismissal denied Smith some cricket history, as no batter has ever hit three consecutive T20 centuries.
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Nonetheless, it took Smith’s four-match BBL12 runs tally to 328 – ranked seventh overall in the competition, despite the top six all having played at least 11 games – after previous knocks of 36, 101 and 125 not out. His 24 sixes for the tournament so far is, remarkably, the most by any player this summer — an “absolutely astonishing” stat, according to Fox Cricket’s Isa Guha.
Fox Cricket’s Brett Lee added: “It’s just been another Steven Smith masterclass.
“He is in career-best form, certainly in this format of the game … His bat swing is back.
“He’s dining out in the BBL.
“When you look back at this week for Steven Smith … he has decimated bowling attacks all around Australia.”
Smith’s breathtaking Big Bash campaign comes months after he was sidelined for most of Australia’s T20 World Cup campaign, in which it won just three of four games.
Pre-tournament, his T20I strike rate since the start of 2021 was 111.45 across 18 matches, which alarmed selectors.
But Smith’s strike rate of 180.21 across his past four games for the Sixers is ranked first in the BBL, showing terrific timing, power and class at the crease.
While Smith’s attention will quickly turn to other formats – Australia has two crunch Test series against India and England before the ODI World Cup in October and November – national selectors will also be wary of the next T20 World Cup, which will be held in the West Indies in 2024.
Asked during Fox Cricket’s broadcast of the Hurricanes-Sixers clash if Smith should be Australia’s T20 opener, Haddin said: “I don’t think you can not use someone in this sort of form. I think he’ll suit the top of the order. He’s only 33, he’s got another World Cup in him in the 20 overs (format), so why not?
“Steve Smith’s one of the best, if not the best, in the world that plays on slow wickets – and that’s what the West Indies (pitches) are going to be.
“In this sort of form, no doubt he’ll be at the top of the order.”
Lee, however, said selectors could take a different route.
“There’s a few months between drinks, so to speak, until the next T20 match, but to me it depends on what they’re thinking with the next generation coming through,” Lee told Fox Cricket.
“If there’s a tournament or a World Cup happening now, 100 per cent yes. But if it’s a fair way away, they might go with an option where they bring on another younger cricketer coming through and think about the next generation.
“It all comes down to workload … He’s going to play Test cricket for as long as he possibly can – and so he should, he’s been one of the world’s best.”
Asked if he wanted to bat higher up the order moving forward, Smith told Fox Cricket post-match: “Yeah absolutely.
“I think I hit the ball in pretty unique areas, so with two fielders out it sort of helps me and I can get into my work. Then when they put the fielders out, I’m in and can just hit the gaps or hit the ball over the fence, which I’ve done a few times in the last few games.
“It’s been good fun. Hopefully I can keep doing it up top for a little while.”
Smith’s excellent recent T20 form comes after he registered an unbeaten Test double century against the West Indies followed by a half-century and century in separate Tests against South Africa. He also had scores of 80 not out and 94 in two separate ODIs against England before the Tests.
Smith in November said he’d made some changes to his unique batting technique in a bid to help him rediscover his career-best form – shifts that have undoubtedly paid dividends this summer.
Former England bowler Isa Guha on Monday night broke down the key tweaks Smith had made.
“He talked about opening up his grip, almost like playing the backspin like a tennis player rather than topspin,” she told Fox Cricket.
“It’s allowing him to get that reach underneath the ball and also the side-on approach to get that power into the shot.”