The Ashes, 2nd Test: Atherton questions Smith’s leadership, England’s selection (ld)

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Former England captain Michael Atherton has questioned Steve Smith’s leadership skills and England’s team selection, especially Jack Leach’s ouster, ahead of the second Ashes Test at 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 sandpaper scandal in South Africa.

After serving a leadership ban, Smith returned as the vice-captain to Pat Cummins when Tim Paine stepped down due to a text scandal. 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.

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 Steve 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,” said the 53-year-old on 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 Jack Leach from the playing eleven on spin-friendly conditions in Adelaide. Leach had conceded 102 runs in 13 overs and had a wicket of Marnus Labuschagne in Brisbane.

“It’s curious isn’t it, we’re here at Adelaide, there’s not a cloud in the sky, the pitch looks brown and England have five seamers. Last week at the Gabba, the pitch looked tinged with green, it seemed cloudy and overcast and a bit of humidity as well and they went with the spinner.”

“It seems curious and counter-intuitive. I think it’s one of the problems England have at the moment, they slightly overthink matters and they’re always playing a game ahead of themselves rather than the game that’s right in front of them.”

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