Why did Steve Smith head home?

Former Australian captain Steve Smith. Photo / Photosport
Former Australian captain Steve Smith. Photo / Photosport

Australia coach Darren Lehmann has brushed aside criticism by former captain Michael Clarke of the decision to send skipper Steve Smith home midway through the Sri Lanka one-day series.

Smith returned to Sydney from Colombo following the crushing 82-run defeat in the second match of the series to rest, with vice-captain David Warner handed the reins for the remaining three matches and two T20 internationals.

The 27-year-old will return to lead the side against South Africa in an ODI series at the end of next month and Lehmann said the move was the best thing for Smith, who plays in all three forms of the game.

"It's obviously a great burden captaining your country but we want to just make sure he is fresh and ready to go in South Africa and the big summer ahead," Lehmann said.

"We'd planned it for a long time and he took some convincing there is no doubt about that, but as a coaching and selection panel we have to make sure he is fresh and ready to go for Australia."

Clarke, who retired after last year's Ashes defeat in England, expressed his surprise at the decision on Twitter on Wednesday.

"I would of (sic) liked to have seen the captain play until the series was won and then have a rest," Clarke said.

"In the same breath, if Smithy needed a break then he should have flown home after the Test matches not 2x ODIs in."

His sentiments were echoed by former opener Michael Slater but Lehmann said he had no issue with the comments.

"We respect our former captains and former greats having an opinion," he said.

"There is no dramas about it and they're entitled to it. But we think it's the best for Steven to get him right and ready to go.

"It's hard captaining in all three formats and we are just making sure he gets a break."

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