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Michael Atherton: Smith seems to exist in his own world

Updated on: 17 December,2021 09:02 AM IST  |  Adelaide

Ex-England skipper questions tainted Steven’s leadership qualities as he takes charge of D/N Test in absence of regular captain Pat Cummins; Warner, Labuschagne lead Aus domination on Day 1

Michael Atherton: Smith seems to exist in his own world

David Warner (right) and Marnus Labuschagne during their 172-run stand. Pics/Getty Images

Former England captain Michael Atherton has questioned Steven Smith’s leadership skills and England’s team selection, especially Jack Leach’s ouster, ahead of the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval. Smith had to take over the captaincy after the regular skipper Pat Cummins had to withdraw because of a Covid-19 scare.

Smith had taken over from Michael Clarke in 2015 as Australia’s Test captain and served in the role until 2018 when he was ousted after the sandpapergate scandal in South Africa. After serving a leadership ban, Smith returned as the vice-captain to Cummins when Tim Paine stepped down due to a text scandal. 

Cummins ruled out

But Cummins was ruled out of the Adelaide Test, hours before the start on Thursday when he was deemed a close contact of a person testing positive for Covid-19. Cummins seems to have come in contact while dining indoors in a restaurant on Wednesday night. The development meant that Smith was back as the Test captain for Australia for the first time since 2018.

Steven Smith at the toss yesterday
Steven Smith at the toss yesterday

Atherton, though, doesn’t seem to be convinced with Smith’s return as Test captain. “I think once you’ve been punished and done your time in any reasonable society there must be a chance for people to come again. The only thing I wonder about Smith, his role as captain [as] generally he is so self-absorbed it seems to me as a cricketer, certainly as a batsman, he seems to exist in his own world, this bubble,” Atherton told SEN Test Cricket.

“I just wonder about his role generally as captain, I have no problems with him being given the opportunity again, whether he’s the best man for it is another question. I’ve always found it odd the slight differential in punishment between Smith and David Warner, I’ve never quite understood that,” added Atherton, who played 115 Tests for England.

Atherton was further unimpressed by England leaving out left-arm spinner Leach from the playing XI on spin-friendly conditions in Adelaide. Leach had conceded 102 runs in 13 overs and had a wicket of Marnus Labuschagne in Brisbane.

Michael Atherton
Michael Atherton

Meanwhile, at Adelaide, Warner and Labuschagne scored 95 each to put Australia in a strong position on Day One of the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday. At stumps, Australia were 221-2 in 89 overs with Labuschagne and Steve Smith (batting 18) at the crease.

Reprieve for Labuschagne

Labuschagne, who earlier braved a testing short-ball exam from Ben Stokes in the first session, received a reprieve on 21. Stokes had him edging a pull on a bouncer, but it went high to the left of ’keeper Jos Buttler, who jumped to catch with both hands, but couldn’t get hold of it.

Warner reached his 32nd Test fifty with a magnificent pull off Stokes, splitting deep square leg and deep backward square leg to perfection. Labuschagne also reached his 12th Test half-century by pushing Ollie Robinson to mid-off for three runs.

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