Ex-Oz selector demands axing of North, blooding of Smith

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Sydney, Mar. 17 (ANI): Former Australian selector John Benaud has said the current National Selection Panel (NSP) should show some courage by axing a struggling Marcus North and blood Blues dynamo Steve Smith against New Zealand.

Test legend Greg Chappell also insisted that the four-man panel of Andrew Hilditch, Jamie Cox, David Boon and Merv Hughes could no longer ignore the 20-year-old's irresistible case for selection.

Known for its conservatism, the Hilditch-led panel is understood to be leaning towards North over Smith, mindful that giving him the bullet now would almost certainly represent the last rites to the 30-year-old's international career.

But Benaud said it would be a grave mistake to overlook the red-hot Smith, who clinched the Steve Waugh Medal, New South Wale's top gong, on Sunday night after taking 21 wickets and hammering 772 runs at 77.2 in the Sheffield Shield.

"The selectors have to go with Smith. The time is right. Unfortunately, Marcus North has to go. This is the ideal opportunity for Steve to play New Zealand, who are not exactly high-flyers. North is on the slide with his form and Smith is on the way up," the Daily Telegraph quoted Benaud, as saying.

"The danger is if they leave North there and he makes 50, it doesn't mean he's back in form and off again, it just means you're playing New Zealand and you've scored runs. It might be enough to save him for another Test, but the selectors have to seize the day and pick Steve Smith," he added.

Former Australian skipper Chappell agreed, saying the leg-spinning all-rounder would never be better placed mentally to cope with being catapulted into the Test line-up.

"Steve's progress in the last 12 months has been quite sensational," said Chappell.

"Selecting is all about picking guys when they are ready. The kid is coming off three hundreds and a seven-for ... if you are going to give him a Test, this is the time. He doesn't need time, he needs further challenges to keep getting better," Chappell added. (ANI)

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