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Ricky Ponting

Steven Smith should continue at No. 3

Australia's new captain looks dominant in that position, even with the pronounced initial movement of his feet

Ricky Ponting
Ricky Ponting
16-Aug-2015
Steven Smith is alone with his thoughts after holing out to point, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day, August 7, 2015

Smith will need to adjust the time he spends working on his own batting and pay attention to what the other players do in the nets  •  Getty Images

I firmly believe that as Australia's new captain Steven Smith should continue batting at No. 3 once he takes on the role. I know there have been a few people saying that he's not a long-term option in that position based on what they have seen in this Ashes series, but I definitely think it is where he should bat from here on.
Steve will learn a lot from this Ashes series. He looked a little bit nervous and on edge to me in Cardiff but he got through to 33 in each innings. He got out to Moeen Ali in a way he would have been disappointed about in the first innings and then edged a pretty good ball from Stuart Broad in the second.
When he went to Lord's, we saw Steve play the way we'd become used to seeing from him over the past 18 months. In beautiful batting conditions with the sun out and on a flat pitch he looked totally at ease, helped also by the early platform Chris Rogers and David Warner were able to put together.
England took note of how dominant he was in that game and also how much he was moving across his crease. They have bowled wider and wider to him across the series, and if he's going to persist with that pronounced pre-movement, it will probably continue against most of the bowling attacks Steve faces.
When you get players who move that far across - Simon Katich was another one - the first thing bowlers think they can do is angle straight in at the stumps for an lbw or even a bowled behind the pads, but that's exactly where these batsmen want you to bowl. England identified that, kept the ball away from him on a full length and stacked the off-side field.
He also got a couple of good balls; in the first innings at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge they were rearing, seaming deliveries that a lot of players would have edged. It can be said that they were a fraction wide of the stumps, but because of Steve's movement across he was actually trying to play them as close to under his eyes as possible.
Between now and the Test tour of Bangladesh, Steve will have a little bit of time to think about what he wants to do with his foot movement. I wondered at times during the first four Tests whether he was completely sure how far across he was getting from one ball to the next, because it's hard to move the exact same distance every time, particularly under pressure.
That being said, Steve doesn't give me the impression he is too worried about where his stumps are, as long as he's got his body in line with the ball. He has not made the same movement for every bowler either, doing things slightly differently for left-arm bowlers, spinners and others. I am sure he will be good enough to make whatever adjustments he sees fit to be the best batsman he can be - he already has to get this far.
The other thing he will have to think about is how he will adjust to the demands of being the full-time captain. As I discovered, it is genuinely life-changing. I got a taste of things as ODI captain for two years before taking over as Test skipper from Steve Waugh. Smith has the advantage of having led Australia for three Tests at home last summer, when he did a solid job in difficult circumstances.
Most importantly he played beautifully with the bat, and also seemed to handle the off-field matters - whether it be team matters, media or other public roles - with minimum fuss. One thing that he will need to adjust is how he prepares. He spends hour upon hour in the nets hitting balls. But now he may have to start thinking about how to look a little more at everyone else during these sessions without sacrificing his own preparations.
That sort of change will come with time, and it will also be vital that he has the right people around him. The coach, Darren Lehmann, and his batting assistant, Michael Di Venuto, will be important, but Steve will also need to have a number of senior players around him also to help him through the first period.
With that in mind, the selectors are going to have to be careful about how they manage the transition. There has been a lot of talk about injecting youth into the team, in Bangladesh in particular, but the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Adam Voges and even Shane Watson may be handy to have around the team, given that Michael Clarke, Ryan Harris, Chris Rogers and more than likely Brad Haddin will all be missing.
There will be no lack of freshness in the Australian set-up now as plenty of different faces will join the team for Bangladesh. A few have already been called into the ODI team to face Ireland and England after the Oval Test. With what has happened during the Ashes, there will also have to be some new messages coming from the coaching staff to the players.
Darren and his support staff will have to show they have learned the lessons from this series in order to get better. All the high-level leadership roles in Australian cricket have a shelf life, whether it is captain or coach, but I don't think we've got there yet with Darren. A fresher group of players to work with should help him challenge himself again after the success of the past two years was followed by failure in England.
This has been one really poor series at the back end of a pretty successful two years, but I don't think there's need for panic since the various mistakes of this tour have been acknowledged by those involved. Darren has always said he is happy with mistakes being made so long as they are not repeated. It's a handy line for Steve to live by as he starts out his captaincy.

One of cricket's modern greats, Ricky Ponting captained Australia in 324 matches and scored over 27,000 runs