MUMBAI FEB 15,
Steve Smith is the 14th player to lead an Australian team in India and he described the forthcoming four-Test series, the first of which starts next Thursday at Pune on February 23, as a “great occasion and a challenge for his batsmen and bowlers.”
Much of his first interaction with the media along with coach Darren Lehmann at the C. K. Nayudu Room, Cricket Club of India, focused on identifying India as a good team in home conditions, on his batsmen’s preparation against off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, other spinners, the Indian fast bowling attack and the significance of reverse swing.
Smith’s team trained and practised in simulated ‘Indian conditions’ at the ICC Global Cricket Academy at Dubai for about ten days before arriving here on Monday evening. The team spent a week with former England left arm spinner Monty Panesar at Brisbane and thereafter engaged former India left arm spinner Sridharan Sriram to hone their skills.
Australia’s aim will be to improve its record in India which is 12 wins out of 46 matches and 19 losses; 14 ended in draw and the Madras Test of 1986 ended in a tie. As captain of the team, the 27-year-old Sydney-sider managed to turn things around from the ‘Pink ball Test’ against South Africa after series losses in Sri Lanka (0-3) and against South Africa (1-2); the ebb and flow of fortunes starting from the first Test against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in July 2016. But no bowling combination – at home or away —has been able to stop his big appetite for runs.
He has a fantastic average of 60.15 from an exact 100 Test match innings, prolific as he has been at No.3, 4 and 5.
Summing up his batting form, captaincy in the last 12 months and about the upcoming series he said: “I guess the last four years since I’ve been here, I have had a pretty good run as a batter.
Hopefully it can continue in this tour.
I’ve learnt a fair bit along the way as captain. You learn a lot more from losing games than you do from winning. The last year has been a roller-coaster ride in regards to results. I think this team has come a long way, we’re learning a lot, we’re willing to put in the hard work trying to get the best out of ourselves and the team.
“So I’m happy with where everything is at the moment. Obviously, this is going to be a difficult tour. And I’m excited by that challenge. I think all guys are really excited about what’s to come in the next six weeks. It’s a challenge to play in India, and we know that if we can pull something off and win a series here, we can look back in 10-20 years that it would be some of the best times of our lives. So, it’s a great occasion to play here in India.”
Smith said his team prepared on some good wickets (in Dubai) and tried to find game plans that can work in Indian conditions and against the spinners. “We are ready to go. It was a bit of both (technical and mental preparation in Dubai). Batting in Test cricket is about making good decisions and doing that for long periods of time. We had some difficult conditions in Dubai where the ball was turning and there was some inconsistent bounce. Now it will be about implementing them into the game and doing it for long periods of time in India.’’
Touching upon the captaincy style he would probably follow in India he Smith said: “For me, it’s about understanding the different times in a game. There’s time in a game where you can attack more, and times where you need to defend a little bit, and let the game take its course for a little then try and keep things quite tight. And when you get a sniff, really go for it. I think that’s an important aspect of captaincy here in India, it’s about knowing the right periods and timing those periods right, when to sort of take the foot off the medal and go hard as well. I learnt a little about that in Sri Lanka.”