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Smith responds to Siddle criticism

Selection is a balancing act and Australia did not take Bangladesh lightly, insists skipper Smith

Test captain Steve Smith has addressed criticism from fast bowler Peter Siddle over Australia's long-term approach to selection for the Qantas Tour of Bangladesh.

On multiple occasions ahead of the first Test in Dhaka, Smith explained Ashton Agar's selection over fellow spinner Stephen O'Keefe - Australia's joint leading wicket-taker on their preceding Test tour of India - was made with one eye to their next trip to India, likely to be in 2021.

The 23-year-old Agar is nearly a decade O'Keefe's junior and after Australia’s 1-2 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series defeat earlier this year, Smith has reinforced that winning a Test series in India remains one of his highest priorities as skipper.


"It's four years until we next go to India which is always a tough tour for us and one that I particularly as captain want to win (at some stage) throughout my tenure," he said ahead of the first Test.

Siddle, however, has suggested Smith's comments put extra pressure on the Test team, which lost by 20 runs in Dhaka to hand Bangladesh a famous win.

"He can think that, but it’s probably not something that he should have said out loud," Siddle told Fox Sports News.

"There is a lot of cricket to be played in four years. There is an Ashes series coming up where we will use a certain amount of players. There will be Test matches in the couple of years coming that will be just as important.

"It made it hard and it added extra pressure to the boys … let’s just worry about the moment."

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While Smith - who is not an Australian selector - insisted he had no problem with Siddle expressing his views, he said selection was a difficult balancing act and stressed Australia had not taken Bangladesh lightly.

"Peter Siddle’s entitled to his opinion but I never think that we’ve looked too far ahead and not concentrated on this tour, that’s for sure," Smith said in Chittagong ahead of the final match of the series.

"We always focus in on the tour that we’re playing in. At times you also have to look a bit to the future and look at guys that we think can play a role. 

"I was pretty open when I said Ashton Agar’s a player that we think has a bright future and needs to get some game time in these conditions. 

"There’s nothing like playing in these conditions. I was open about that. 

"I don’t think at any point we really said that we weren’t concentrating on this tour. I don’t think that was ever the case."

Steve O'Keefe has returned to the Test squad // Getty
Steve O'Keefe has returned to the Test squad // Getty

O'Keefe, 32, has since been recalled as a replacement for injured quick Josh Hazlewood in the Bangladesh squad and could return to the side for the second Test.

Agar impressed in his return to Test cricket in Dhaka after a four-year absence, snaring five wickets for the match and making a vital 41 not out in the first innings.

Both left-arm spinners could feature in Chittagong with Smith confirming Australia were contemplating a three-pronged spin-attack.

For his part, O'Keefe said upon his arrival in Bangladesh that he had come to terms with Agar's original selection ahead of him – and had sent encouraging words via text during the first Test – but he believes he might still be around when Australia next play a Test series in India.

"I do like to remind Steve that if I'm still playing at 36, I might still be a chance,” a smiling O'Keefe told reporters on Friday.

"(Being dropped is) hard to hear at first but you accept that. I want to see a thriving team in four years' time that goes to India.

"(Smith) was one was one of the first people after 'Cracker' (chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns) to tell me when they went down a different path with the team as to why they were doing it.

"I respect him for that."

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Australia in Bangladesh 2017

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Bangladesh squad: Mushfiqur Rahim (c), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Mominul Haque.


27-31 August First Test, Dhaka, Bangladesh won by 20 runs


4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong