Cricket 2023: Steve Smith slams Matthew Hayden’s ‘un-Australian’ jibe, defends Peter Handscomb

Steve Smith has hit back at claims from Test great Matthew Hayden that Peter Handscomb’s innings during the second day’s play in Indore was “un-Australian”, saying he was “shocked” to see the remarks aimed at one of Australia’s more applied batters this series.

Handscomb’s defiant 19 from 98 deliveries bucked the trend ahead of a diabolic collapse that saw Australia lose 6 wickets for 11, but Hayden was not impressed.

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“(Handscomb’s) strike rate of under 20 means you are not going anywhere, and the scoreboard is not going anywhere,” he said on commentary.

“It’s almost un-Australian.

“It’s just not attacking enough.”

Hayden’s comments come as part of a bevy of players from former coach Justin Langer’s era line up to take potshots at the current side struggling in the subcontinent.

Damien Martyn, who scored 444 runs at an average of 55.5 on the famous ‘Final Frontier’ victory in India in 2004/05, simply tweeted “#justinlanger” in a swiftly-deleted tweet after Australia’s defeat in the first Test, while Langer’s fellow West Australian Mitchell Johnson wrote that the side “don’t look as if they care enough.”

Former teammate Mark Waugh on commentary said after the Nagpur defeat that “the Australians are maybe guilty of not trying enough.”

Hayden himself is close friends with Langer, with the opening duo forming the fourth-most prolific partnership in the history of Test cricket, scoring 6081 runs together at an average of 51.53, and with one of Hayden’s most famous performances on the 2001 tour of India known for his mastery of playing spin bowling, has offered his consulting services to the Australians.

Smith did not have time for any of the former generation’s criticism, however, saying he was “pretty disappointed to see some of the comments last Test match around (Handscomb) not playing the Australian way.”

“I think he’s (Handscomb’s) been outstanding.
“The first two Test matches (31 and 72 not out) in the first innings of both and left pretty much stranded,” Smith said.

“If one of the other top seven were able to get in a partnership with him, things could certainly be different.

“He batted beautifully in the first two, he’s stuck to his method, he’s trusted his defence, and then scored off balls that were either overpitched or too short and played them off the back foot.

“His method has proved it’s worked in difficult conditions.

“So I was shocked to see some comments about the way he was playing because I think him and Uzzy (Khawaja) have probably been arguably our two best batters in this series.”

Smith will lead the Australians into the fourth Test starting this afternoon (3pm AEDT) in Ahmedabad, and does not expect any team changes despite anticipating a grassier, bouncier wicket in Motera compared to the raging turner of Indore.

Regardless of the wicket, Smith says that Australia will take the same bowling attack into Ahmedabad as they did in Indore, calling suggestions of a change to three seamers “mind-boggling”.

“It’s been weird with a bit of the commentary back home, people talking about us playing three quicks and one spinner,” he said.

“It’s kind of mind-boggling to me when we look at these surfaces and we see what we’ve had…11 innings in six days or something like that.

“Spinners have taken the bulk of the wickets and you see how difficult it is to play the spin.

“We’ve had faith in what we’re trying to do and it’s good that we are able to show that we can play with three spinners and win.”

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