Langer: Smith’s quality too good to ignore
STEVE Smith's standing as an "all-time great of Australian cricket" has cost in-form batsman Peter Handscomb his shot at World Cup glory.
Australian coach Justin Langer has revealed that Smith's reputation and his ability to resume Handscomb's middle-order role crystallised the decision to dump the Victorian from the 15-man squad.
That bold call has heaped pressure on Smith to perform on the world's biggest stage.
Captain Aaron Finch admitted on Monday that Smith wasn't setting the world on fire in the Indian Premier League.
While David Warner leads the IPL with 400 runs at a healthy strike-rate of 140.4, Smith is 23rd on the runs list with 186.
Smith's strike-rate of 107.5 ranks 43rd and he is still battling an elbow injury.
Handscomb, 27, has played all 13 ODIs for Australia in 2019, averaging 43.5 runs and posting a maiden century (117 off 105) in India.
Smith, 29, has not scored an ODI century for more than two years. Ironically, it came in Handscomb's sparkling debut as he contributed 82 runs.
Victorian coach Andrew McDonald last week selected Handscomb in his best World Cup XI - and left Smith out.
"I can't tell you how close (Handscomb) was to being selected," Langer said.
"He had a brilliant time. He played exactly the role that we talked about for the back-end of the ODI summer in Australia and through India and the UAE.
"He did a great job, he's super fit, he's a terrific young bloke and he gets on and does his job.
"We just felt that Steve Smith would play that same role and Steve Smith's one of the all-time greats of Australian cricket."
Langer said Finch's tactical nous had improved during his recent lean patch with the bat, but warned that runs were still required.
"The most important thing about the captain of Australia is they're scoring runs, or, in Painey's case he's wicketkeeping brilliantly," Langer said.
"Because when the captain's on top of their game everyone gains great confidence from that."Finch averaged 15.8 runs across nine ODIs amid a struggling stretch where his Test career also fell over. But Finch bounced back to life with a 93 against India and then two centuries against Pakistan.
Handscomb's ability to wicketkeep didn't help his World Cup selection cause when selectors Langer, Trevor Hohns and Greg Chappell finalised the squad in Perth last week.
They were happy they could easily replace World Cup keeper Alex Carey should be break a finger with Handscomb, Tim Paine and Matthew Wade all in England for the Australia A tour.
Langer said he will weight four-day performances for Australia A equally with performances for English county teams as players push their Ashes cases in July.