Australia coach provides update on star batter’s place in T20 World Cup plans

Australia coach Andrew McDonald confirmed that Steve Smith is still in contention for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024.

Before the start of the ongoing T20I series against New Zealand, Australia's T20I skipper Mitchell Marsh outlined his team’s composition, confirming that the top order was fairly settled, with David Warner, Travis Head, and himself occupying the first three positions.

“I've batted (at) three for the last 18 months, so I'll be there to start with. And obviously Heady and Davey Warner have been amazing for us over the last period of time, so I daresay that will be the top three,” Marsh said on the eve of the series opener.

This along with the fact that Australia have a packed middle-order featuring options like Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis, Matt Short, and Tim David, raises questions about Smith’s position in the T20 World Cup lineup.

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Smith had taken the top-order role in recent times for Australia.

However, coach McDonald confirmed that the batter was still pretty much in the running for the global tournament, which Australia won in 2021. He stated that Smith would get an opportunity as the side would look to trial different combinations leading up to the World Cup.

Speaking after Australia’s win over New Zealand in the first T20I in Wellington, McDonald said, “If he wasn't in our thinking then he wouldn't be on the plane over here.

“We're playing him for a reason,” McDonald continued discussing Smith, “He'll get some opportunity here, he had some opportunities in India at the back end of a World Cup, and we were planning for him to play in South Africa as well going as far back as August-September [2023], but he unfortunately had a wrist injury at the time.”

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Since Australia’s home T20 World Cup campaign in 2022, Smith has featured twice in the T20I setup, as an opener against India last year. McDonald hinted that Smith would continue to take the same role in the side.

“He's definitely in the thoughts. We'll probably play him in a slightly different role to what we've seen in previous World Cups in T20 cricket.

“He's gone to the top of the order in recent times, so batting high up there's still competition for places.

“I suppose that's a good problem to have.”

McDonald stressed the importance of the upcoming games, stating that they’d help Australia figure out their best possible squad for the World Cup in West Indies and USA,

“There's 20 players that are in our thinking, we're not settled in terms of the final 15 at this stage and that's why these games are really important

“And we've got a lot of our players in IPL as well, so we get another look at what certain players are doing in that competition which is probably the biggest connection to international cricket.

“We're not going to get to a final 11 as we sit here, but we'll work through to a 15 and give ourselves as many options in that 15 to negate what the West Indies surfaces will challenge us with.”

The last two T20Is in the ongoing series will be played in Auckland on 23 and 25 February respectively.

ICC Men's T20 World Cup, 2024News