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News

Smith could move back down order

Chief among the questions for Australia's new captain Steven Smith to ponder is where he will bat now he has control over the order of positions

Daniel Brettig
Daniel Brettig
14-Aug-2015
Captain's table: Steven Smith and David Warner discuss their new roles, Northampton, August 14, 2015

Steven Smith and David Warner discuss their new roles while the rain falls in Northampton  •  Getty Images

On his first day as the fully endorsed next Australia captain, Steven Smith spent most of his time waiting for the rain to stop. The team hotel in Northampton was an inauspicious place to start, much as his predecessor Michael Clarke first stepped out as captain in the SCG's basement four years ago.
As the rain belted down over the east midlands, Smith had room to ponder plenty of questions. Chief among these is where he will bat now he has control over the order of positions, and Smith admitted he was far from certain of staying at first wicket down. This is not so much because of an Ashes series of more troughs than peaks, rather a concern about being best placed to help an inexperienced middle order with his deputy David Warner as opener.
"I haven't decided yet," Smith said. "I've been thinking about it and it is also going to come down to the makeup of the team and what will fit best. I haven't completely decided to stay at three or not, we will wait and see. I batted four at the back end of last summer when Michael was out and I was quite successful batting there as well.
"I'll just have to wait and see what the makeup of the team is and what sits best with the team and we'll see from there."
While Smith is committed to ensuring the departing leader Clarke is farewelled with gusto in the final Test of this series at The Oval, he said he would not be seeking to mimic his predecessor. Smith is very much his own man, being mentored largely by Brad Haddin and the former New South Wales - and now England - coach Trevor Bayliss but also taking plenty of ownership of his own game.
To choose Smith at the age of 26 was a straightforward move for the national selectors and Cricket Australia's board of directors, but history says it is also a call seldom made. Smith will be the youngest and least-experienced Australian captain since Kim Hughes, as Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Clarke all had longer stints in the team before ascending to the role. Smith hopes he can take the public with him.
"We're different people, different leaders, looking forward it is about trying to get the best out of this team, we could potentially have quite a different side going to Bangladesh for my first Test tour and we have got a few new players in the one-day team," Smith said. "It's going to be about getting a team delivered and heading in the same direction with the same goals and that is going to be important for us.
"I know it's an important role I'm stepping into now and hopefully I can have the backing of all the public back home. It's really important to have the public behind you and I'm sure all the crowds we get back home are going to come out and support us in numbers. I'm just really excited about this opportunity and looking forward to everything that lies ahead."
The appointment of Warner as Smith's lieutenant has already generated plenty of debate, and it will be intriguing to watch how the duo build their working relationship. The pair are different characters but well known to one another, having first played together for the NSW 2nd XI as far back as 2008. Smith was confident the partnership would blossom.
"David and I are quite close friends and we've grown up playing a lot of cricket together," he said. "We know each other really well so it's going to be nice to work with someone I'm really close with. We have played a lot of cricket over time and know each other's games really well.
"Hopefully we can work well together and lead this team forward. We know each other well as people and players and we are going to be able to have honest conversations as a leadership group and hopefully continue to drive this team. We're looking forward to driving this team together."
Smith has been a notably fastidious trainer over the past 18 months, spending copious hours in the nets and often arriving at the ground earlier than others in order to spend extra time honing his game. Before the first Test of the West Indies series in Dominica earlier this year, Smith and Clarke were the first two men at the ground. It is a trend that is likely to continue now Smith has so much more on his plate.
"It might be travelling to the ground a little bit earlier on a game day or at training," Smith said. "I know I have to keep my game in order at the same time as make sure the team's heading forward and working hard as well. I'm going to have my hands full with my time, I'm just going to have to manage it really well, and that's another part of the job that I'm looking forward to.
"I've still got to perform and do well. That's one thing I want to do from the start, lead from the front with my performances on the field. It's just a really exciting time for Australian cricket, a new era if you like, and I'm really looking forward to everything that comes with the role."
For the moment, that means rain in Northampton. There will be bluer skies ahead, and Smith will hope they are just that for his team, wherever it is he finally decides to bat.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig