Australia star batsman Steve Smith believes England’s “surprising” decision to omit Joe Root from the upcoming T20 series between the two sides is a sign the hosts want to play an “all-out power” game.
Test captain Root has been left out of the squad for a three-match contest starting at Southampton on Friday even though the likes of Jason Roy and Ben Stokes are unavailable.
He has not featured, however, in the ongoing T20 series against Pakistan, where the likes of white-ball captain Eoin Morgan and Dawid Malan have been leading the way with the bat for the 50-over world champions.
England national selector Ed Smith made clear Monday that Root was not currently in the country’s best XI when it came to cricket’s shortest international format, although he held out the hope the accomplished batsman could make his way into the squad for next year’s T20 World Cup in India.
There are those who believe there is still a place for Root’s traditional batting skills even amid the power and innovation of T20 cricket and Australia have now recalled Smith, their leading Test batsman, into the Twenty20 side after a three-year absence from 2016-2019.
“It’s a surprise. Joe is a terrific player across all formats of the game,” Smith told Britain’s Press Association news agency on Tuesday.
“I guess England are opting for all-out power and are continuing to go that way. Everyone’s got different game-plans and different ways to go. If everyone played the same it would be a pretty boring game.”
Smith was clear about his role in Australia’s T20 top order. “I know if I’m batting with someone like Glenn Maxwell or Aaron Finch my role is to get them on strike and let them smack it,” he said. “For me it’s about hitting gaps, sort of playing an anchor role and fixing things up if the big boys don’t get out there and smack it.”
But Smith was adamant one role he was not coveting was that of Australia captain. The former skipper is now eligible for the post again after completing a two-year ban from leadership positions imposed for his part in a 2018 ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
Smith, however, insisted he was happy to serve under Test captain Tim Paine and white-ball counterpart Aaron Finch. “The guys we’ve got are doing great jobs across the formats,” he said.
“I’m pretty chilled at the moment doing what I’m doing, scoring as many runs as I can, fielding as well as I can and giving bits of advice here and there. I’m just enjoying it so there’s no real thought from me (on captaincy).”
Smith was jeered relentlessly by home crowds during last year’s World Cup and Ashes in England, but the advent of behind closed doors cricket in response to the coronavirus means there won’t be any barrackers present during the T20s and the three one-day internationals that follow later in September.
“It’s just a shame there’s no crowds because we love entertaining and playing in front of people,” said Smith. “We’ll just do our bit, coming here to play some cricket, and hopefully there’s plenty of viewers on TV, yelling abuse at it!
“Sport, and particularly cricket, is such a big part of our culture in Australia and England. It’s great we were able to get the pieces of the puzzle together for us to come over here and play this series to get our cricket up and running again... I’m certainly itching to get back into it.”