(Australian Associated Press)
Newly installed skipper Steve Smith says he is ready to lead the charge in Australian cricket’s new era.
Smith has officially taken the reins from Michael Clarke, after his retirement following the failed Ashes campaign, and in his first assignment will look to take Ireland apart.
Australia play the world’s tenth-ranked one-day nation in Belfast in a match that will officially open Smith’s stint in the role often referred to as the second-most important position in the country – behind only the prime minister.
He is taking over a team recently demoralised by an Ashes defeat, but who reign over all in limited-overs cricket – having justified their No.1 ranking by winning the World Cup in February on home soil.
The 26-year-old, who has filled in at ODI and Test level for an injured Clarke in the past, is far from daunted by the task.
If anything, he’s eager to stamp his authority.
“I’m very excited. Obviously, I’ve known for a little while now that I was going to be taking over the one-day squad, so I’ve been working pretty hard and preparing (for) everything coming up,” Smith said ahead of Thursday’s clash.
“The last time this group was together, we won a World Cup, so I don’t think we have to change a whole heap.
“We’re currently No.1 in the world. I think for us now, it’s just about raising that bar and continuing to get better each day.”
Smith has learned from and played under Australia’s most-recent skippers, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, and says he has gleaned a great deal from both of them.
Clarke has been hailed as one of the game’s master tacticians – able to have a great impact on a match through his bowling changes and fielding placements – but has been criticised for his man management.
Ponting had been viewed more as a leader through action, which is an approach Smith will lean towards.
“Hopefully, first and foremost, I can keep making runs,” he said.
“That’s pretty important to me – to make sure I’m leading from the front.”
While admitting he will draw on some aspects of Clarke’s captaincy – notably the aggressive, win-at-all-costs mentality – Smith is adamant he is his own man.
And that means he will likely be implementing a few changes in how the team is run.
“Maybe just a few things around the group,” he said, when pressed on what he would do differently.
“(But) particularly with the one-day set-up, I think we’re in a really good place.”
Australia have picked a strong squad for the limited-overs fixtures, which include a Twenty20 clash with England and a five-match ODI series, with stalwarts David Warner, Shane Watson, Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell all picked.
However, Smith will also be in charge of introducing uncapped trio Joe Burns, Ashton Agar and Marcus Stoinis to international limited-overs cricket.
“I guess it’s a new era in a way for Australian cricket,” he said.
“But they’re really excited and I’m really excited to see them do well on this tour.”