‘Swept under the carpet’: Michael Clarke fumes at Aussie selectors’ ‘embarrassing’ Smith backflip
Smith was drop off Australia's T20 team last year because he hadn't done well in the game's shortest version for the past few matches. Even though he usually batted in the top four, he didn't get a half-century in 23 straight T20I innings. His last fifty came in November 2019.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the right-hander has averaged 19.23 in T20Is with a strike rate of 115.41. Ben McDermott was the only known Australian hitter who had a lower strike rate during that time.
During Australia's winning 2021 T20 World Cup performance in the United Arab Emirates, he made 69 runs in four tries, for a strike rate of 97.18.
After getting 8 (5), 9 (10), 17 (16), and 7* (8) in warm-up games for the 2022 T20 World Cup, Smith was cut to make room for Tim David, a white-ball player who has played all over the world.
Australia won three of their four games in the event, but they didn't make it to the final series because of their net run rate. Smith only played one game in the T20 World Cup last year, against Afghanistan at Adelaide Oval, where he scored four runs.
But the New South Welshman showed that he could still be a threat in T20 by hitting back-to-back centuries while opening for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League last season. He scored a classy 101 (56) against the Adelaide Strikes in Coffs Harbour and an unbeaten 125 (66) against the Sydney Thunder at the SCG. They are still the two best scores ever made by a Sixers player in the BBL.
Aaron Finch, the former Australian leader, quit international cricket earlier this year. This left a spot at the top of the order for the national T20 team. Chair of Selectors George Bailey said on Monday afternoon that Smith would start the game instead of Finch in the upcoming T20 series against the Proteas in South Africa.
"Smith's innings in the Big Bash were pretty exciting, and I thought they showed off his skills and what he can do," Bailey told reporters.
"We wanted to see him play like he did in the Big Bash all over the world."
Clarke told Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday morning that he "didn't mind" Australia's ODI and T20 teams for the South Africa tour, but he was upset with the "confusing" selection process.
"I don't understand why Smith chose… "That makes me feel bad for the people who chose them," Clarke said.
"He was on the World Cup team last year, but he didn't make the starting lineup.
"He doesn't play, and we do really badly in the World Cup.
"Over the past 15 months, choices have been very hard to understand. I couldn't believe that Smith didn't play in that World Cup.
"There's just no one to answer to. It's just put out of sight. I feel like I'm watching a completely different game.
"I don't understand why they put Smithy in the T20s. I don't think he's playing T20 cricket anywhere else in the world. He won't be playing in the IPL because he wasn't picked up.
"He still must want to play, though."
On August 30, the first T20 between Australia and the Proteas will start in Durban. David Warner, a veteran opener, will not play in any of the three T20 games, so Smith could open with Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Short, or Marcus Stoinis in South Africa.