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Smith “better” under captaincy pressure

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He’s enjoying his cricket but Steve Smith doesn’t believe being freed from the pressures of captaining Australia has elevated his performance.

The captaincy questions keep coming for Steve Smith as another Australian leader-in-waiting prepares to put his best foot forward.

Smith’s leadership ban expires next March, and debate has swirled in recent weeks about whether he should again head up the Test side once incumbent skipper Tim Paine retires.

Smith has consistently played a straight bat when asked about his leadership aspirations, saying it is far from his thinking and he is enjoying just playing for Australia.

That hasn’t stopped the likes of Ricky Ponting and Mark Taylor from backing him to return to the job he held up until the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

Having won man of the series honours during a phenomenal Ashes tour, Smith has also found white-ball form with Australia’s T20 side.

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But the batting marvel doesn’t believe being freed from the pressures of captaincy has elevated his performance.

“I actually think I play better with pressure, that extra pressure when the team needs something more and things like that,” Smith said in Perth ahead of Friday’s third and final T20 against Pakistan at Optus Stadium.

“My record probably is better when I’m captain than when I’m not. That sort of pressure doesn’t really bother me.

“But I’m not thinking about captaincy or anything at this point in time. I’m really comfortable where I’m at and I’m enjoying what I’m doing.”

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The Test captaincy debate has been heightened by the lack of obvious candidates other than Smith to eventually replace the 35-year-old Paine.

Travis Head served as vice-captain during the Ashes but was dropped before the end of the series in a blow to his aspirations.

Pat Cummins has been touted by many as a future skipper but appears reluctant given the already heavy demands of fast bowling.

National selectors appear to be grooming Alex Carey as a future Test captain after tasking him with captaining Australia A in a tour match against Pakistan starting in Perth on Monday.

Carey will lead a strong side including Head, Usman Khawaja, Joe Burns, Will Pucovski and Nic Maddinson, all of whom are vying for selection in the first Test.

The wicketkeeper is yet to make his Test debut but is Australia’s T20 and one-day international vice-captain.

© AAP