Smith in action against South Africa. Photo: AFP
HARARE: Steve Smith might have been hard done with his omission from the team to face Zimbabwe, but the talented right-hander must put runs on the board if he's to convince selectors he deserves a World Cup berth.
Australia's stand-in ODI captain George Bailey has given Smith a strong endorsement, believing he has the game to make a mark batting at No.3.
However, the pressure is now on Smith to deliver in Saturday's tri-series final against the Proteas in Harare.
Bailey, leading the team off the field in Zimbabwe, backs Smith as a No.3. Photo: AFP
Despite his recent breakthroughs at Test level, Smith is yet to post an ODI half century from 37 matches.
With the likes of Michael Clarke, David Warner and Shane Watson to come back into Australia's strongest team, Smith would be hard-pressed to lock down his spot with his current average of 21.22.
By his own admission, the 25-year-old doesn't believe he's nailed down his place with next year's World Cup in Australia fast approaching.
In Smith's favour is the fact he hasn't played regular ODI cricket since 2011, and it's been over the past year that his batting has really matured.
Since March 2013, Smith has scored four hundreds and four 50s in 15 Test matches to emerge as a crucial player of the future for Australia.
But he needs to show he can put it all together in the white-ball game and go on to a big score.
Smith will get no better opportunity than in the final in Harare against a world class South African attack, where he is likely to stay at No.3 following a tidy innings of 36 in Tuesday's round-robin win over the Proteas.
It would appear the No.3 spot is somewhat up for grabs after Mitchell Marsh was given a chance there earlier in the tour and Bailey senses Smith is ready to kick on.
"Smith looked really good," said the current skipper.
"He looks like he can fit anywhere into a one-day side.
"His fielding is really good and I thought he looked the part at No.3.
"It looks like he wants those balls and he was set for a 100, so hopefully he continues that form on Saturday because he looks in really good touch."
Smith's sharp fielding and handy part-time leg-spin makes him difficult to leave out if his batting is strong.
Injured regular skipper Michael Clarke has made it clear he wants versatility from No.1 to 11 in the one-day side.
"If you don't do two facets of the game it's very hard to get in the team," he said.