Steven Smith stands by the way he led Australia in the Perth Test © Getty Images
Faf du Plessis has distanced the South Africa team from former captain Graeme Smith’s warning that Australia is on the wane following a string of defeats. Smith listed loss of confidence, the rotation policy, a packed schedule and the struggles of Steven Smith to assert himself as a leader as heaping pressure on the hosts, but du Plessis would not be drawn into the war of words.
“I don’t know too much about it. I just read something about the culture and I’m always of the position if you don’t know exactly what’s going on, you can’t comment on that,” du Plessis said. “I don’t know enough about the Australian culture, so I can’t comment on it. From the outside, it seems the same as always.”
Steven Smith echoed that opinion and insisted his team remained unaffected by the issues Graeme Smith mentioned. “I’m not sure what Graeme Smith knows about Australian cricket,” Smith said. “He obviously wasn’t involved in it. I think the team’s in a good place at the moment, we’ve got a good culture, built on constant improvement and getting better. The guys are in a good place, we’re a tight-knit group and we’re ready to hopefully turn this around this week.”
On Wednesday evening, when Graeme Smith was inducted as a Brandman Honouree at the SCG – alongside Bill Lawry, who was the last Australia captain to lead the side to a home series win after losing the first Test in 1968 – he seemed to sympathise with Steven Smith’s attempts to forge his own captaincy style. “I look at him and you kind of think he’s trying to figure a lot of stuff out at the moment,” Graeme Smith said. “But as a leader, I think you need to understand that for yourself about who you are and that’s the only time you can really get your team to play with that personality. I think he’s trying to figure that all out at the moment. It certainly looks that way and he looks a bit lost.”
Steven Smith admitted he expected to come under criticism, given the team’s performance and hopes. “I’ve seen a lot of the criticism and I guess when you’re losing cricket games that sort of criticism is warranted so we’ve got to try and turn it around and play the way that Australia does best and that’s by winning games of cricket in Australia,” he said.
Some of the naysaying has come from within. Shane Warne has been among those who have questioned Smith’s tactics, particularly on the third morning of the Perth Test when Nathan Lyon was not used at all. South Africa added 118 runs in that session and lost just one wicket to bat Australia out of the match and Warne believes Smith could have done more to make inroads in that period.
Smith stuck to his guns and maintained that he was hoping to make use of reverse swing. “Warney’s entitled to his opinion, but I stand by the way I did things,” he said. “We saw in that game that the reverse swing was the biggest player in the game and it was the decision to be made whether the quicks were going to do the job and get the ball reversing.”
Despite that, Australia’s captain conceded his team had underperformed but said they had done enough work to be ready for a better show in Hobart. “We’ve not been good enough and I guess for me it’s about making sure that the guys are upbeat and ready for the challenge out there in the middle,” he said. “We’ve prepared very well like we have for every Test match. The guys feel like there are in a good place so it’s about going out there and making sure that we get the the job done.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo