Steve Smith didn’t bite his tongue when pressed on the David Warner leadership saga following Australia’s 419-run thrashing of the West Indies in Adelaide.
Fielding questions as Australia’s stand-in captain following an injury blow to Pat Cummins, Smith was asked if he sympathized with Warner.
On the eve of the second Test, the veteran opener withdraws his appeal of his lifetime leadership ban in an explosive statement posted to his social media channels.
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“I think from my point of view, banning someone for life from leadership is just fundamentally wrong,” Smith told reporters.
“David’s served his time, like I did, and for us, we know he’s a leader around the group and on and off the field he’s doing a tremendous job.
“It’s been a difficult one for him, it’s been a difficult week and David’s said himself he’s done and dusted, he wants to move on and get on with it.
“He’s got our full support, and hopefully he can have a really big series for us against South Africa with the bat.”
Cricket Australia dealt Smith a 12-month playing suspension and two-year leadership ban for his role in the 2018 ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town.
But in addition to also slapping Warner with a 12-month playing suspension, the governing body hit Australia’s then vice-captain with a lifetime leadership ban.
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Smith didn’t agree that the events of this week had weighed on the Australian team, which rounded out victory at Adelaide Oval by skitting the West Indies for 77 runs.
But he hinted at the mess being a hindrance to the performance of Warner, who only managed scores of 21 and 28.
“I’d say it’s probably been more of a distraction for Davey, (who’s) no doubt going through that himself,” Smith said.
“But like I said, he’s got the full support of everyone in the group, he’s been amazing for a while now and he’s a leader, like I said, on and off the field.”
While Warner averaged 69.33 and struck a century in the three-match one-day series against England last month, his lean Test run of late continued in the two-game series against the West Indies.
Warner hasn’t finished a Test series with a higher average than 34.12 since Australia met New Zealand in the 2019-20 summer.
That Trans-Tasman Trophy series also marked Warner’s last Test ton — an unbeaten knock of 111 at the SCG.
But Smith isn’t worried about Warner’s batting.
“It’s in his body language — the way he goes out there and is really positive and just in a good frame of mind,” Smith said.
“I thought particularly yesterday (Saturday), when he went out to bat you could see he was in a really good frame of mind. The way his feet were moving. He was really sharp and is batting well, there’s no real concerns.
“Dave is a once-in-a-generation player. He’s arguably the best-ever opener for Australia and the way he’s able to put pressure on bowlers from the outset helps everyone down the order, as well.
“He’s been an incredible player for a long period of time. His record suggests that and there’s no reason why he can’t have a big series for us this week coming up, as well.”
Australia will face South Africa in three Tests at the Gabba, the MCG and the SCG, with the first set to begin on Saturday.
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