Darren Lehmann, the head coach of Australia, has justified the move to rest Steve Smith for the remainder of the Sri Lanka tour to help the incumbent captain to recuperate before a busy home summer.
Australia are slated to tour South Africa to play in a five-match One-Day International (ODI) series before hosting the Proteas for three Tests. Australia are also scheduled to play New Zealand and Pakistan at home, before they embark on tours to New Zealand and India. “We just wanted to make sure that he’s fresh and ready to go for South Africa and then the big summer ahead,” Lehmann told reporters in Colombo on Thursday (August 25). “It was well-planned and well thought out, and that’s what we’re doing.” However, Smith has indicated that he would like to continue as the captain of the Australian side across three formats. On his part, Lehmann backed the 27-year-old middle-order batsman, and stated that the think-tank was happy with Smith’s leadership. “He wants to keep doing that and we’re very happy with the way he’s leading the side,” Lehmann said. Smith’s early departure also provides the opportunity for David Warner to lead the national set-up for the first time. Under Warner’s able leadership, Sunrisers Hyderabad won the Indian Premier League (IPL) title for the first time, earlier this year.
“If Steven happened to get injured then we need David to have some experience,” Lehmann noted. “So that’s another opportunity and that’s important for us to get him that experience. They’re a great leadership duo together and David’s been exceptional over the last couple of years, coming through some difficult times and now playing really well.
“Obviously we’d like him to make a few more runs in this tour but, having said that, with the leadership, he did really well with the IPL side [Sunrisers Hyderabad], so we’re confident he’ll do a good job for us,” Lehmann added.
The move to rest Smith mid-way through the ongoing ODI series in Sri Lanka has been heavily debated by experts and fans alike. Lehmann admitted that former cricketers have the right to criticise the decision, but added that resting Smith would help the No. 1 ranked Test batsman in the long term.
“We respect our former captains and former greats who have an opinion. There’s no dramas, they’re entitled to that. But we think it’s the best thing for Steven to get him right and ready to go,” Lehmann said.