Michael Clarke proving hard to replace for Aussies
STEVE Smith's decision to drop himself down the one-day batting order is an admission that in three years Australia has not been able to find a replacement for Michael Clarke.
Australia has regressed badly in the 50-over format since Clarke lifted the World Cup trophy at the MCG in 2015, and of the four superstars who retired after that tournament it's the former captain's batting presence which has left the biggest void.
Since Clarke's retirement Australia has also banished the successful George Bailey in the search for young blood. On Sunday, the fruitless search for a new anchor at No.4 came to a head when Smith announced he was moving down the order.
Travis Head, one of the players Australia had been trying to groom for their World Cup defence in the UK next year was axed and Cameron White thrust in at Smith's usual No.3 spot, as selectors search frantically for the right formula.
Clarke averaged nearly 45 across 245 one-day games to forge a reputation as one of Australia's best limited overs batsmen.
Not only were his tactics razor sharp as an ODI captain, but Clarke's ability to control the tempo of a match with a foundation innings was a cornerstone of the team between the 2007 and 2015 World Cup wins.
Clarke missed plenty of ODI matches towards the end of his career, but it mattered little, as Bailey was seamlessly able to fill the role of middle-order rock.
But despite averaging over 40 in international cricket over 90 matches, Bailey has been left on the side of the kerb.
Selectors have tried desperately to create a new-age No.4 out of Head, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Lynn and Moises Henriques but so far a combination hasn't stuck.
Smith's classy 45 before being controversially given out suggests his crisp batting style will suit the crucial No.4 position just like it does in the Test match arena.
It remains to be seen whether Cameron White will survive long enough aged 34 to be the No.3 at the World Cup, but in this position there are other candidates like Chris Lynn, Usman Khawaja or even Mitchell Marsh or Marcus Stoinis.
However, Australia can build its World Cup defence around Smith at No.4.