Having himself travelled to Australia as captain of South Africa three times, Graeme Smith has said that England will be under pressure the moment they step Down Under and how captain Joe Root handles it will be a big factor in who wins the series. Smith toured Australia in 2005-06, 2008-09 and 2012 where he lost the first series but won the second and third.
“It’s how Joe Root will handle the pressure of touring Australia, that expectation, the pressure that will be on him, from the media to the crowds,” Smith told the BBC’s Test Match Special. “Australia is relentless. From the moment you arrive and walk out of that airport you are scrutinised – and abused – and there’s an immense amount of pressure. How Joe as a leader will cope with that will also be important.”
England beat South Africa at home in the recently concluded Test series and Smith said that the Ashes later this year in Australia will be another exciting contest.
“England are shaping up to be a good team,” Smith said. I like the fact they’ve gone with the extra (batter), I think that’s going to help them in Australia. You can debate who those eight batters are, if you leave Moeen Ali at eight, but there’s eight quality players there if England can find a top order that can consistently contribute.
“You’ve got such an exciting middle order in (Ben) Stokes, Ali, (Jonny) Bairstow. There’s such freedom to really apply pressure onto the Australian attack.”
Smith also said that England have a good chance in Ashes if they post good totals.
“If England can post totals, they’re going to have a very good chance at the Ashes. If they can get scores of 400 and above they’ll have a really good chance.”
Talking about his own ways to handle pressure and crowds in Australia, Smith that they depended on field rotation.
“We actually tried to share some of the load of the crowds and the media,” Smith said. “(Like) maybe not leaving one bowler down at fine leg for all of one day, maybe moving to shift that around. “We actually created some humour at the end of the day in the change room, because what you hear through six hours in the field in Australia… We used to sit in the change room and have 20 mins of guys sharing some of the stuff they’d heard throughout the day, which always proved to create one or two laughs.”