Steve Smith has repeatedly called his team for suffering batting collapse in the ODI series and Sunday was no different. The Australian captain once again hit out at his batsmen for lack of consistency despite some good performance throughout the series. Smith was disappointed with the performance of the top-four batsmen, including himself, especially with the fact that they could not do it in every match.
He cited the example of Bangalore ODI where Australia openers gave them a brilliant start but they could not do it in the fifth and final ODI in Nagpur on Sunday. Australia could manage to post only 242/9 after suffering collapses at two different occasions.
“We showed some glimpses throughout the series that we could play, but we’ve been losing wickets in clumps very consistently and that’s not good enough,” Smith was quoted as saying by Cricbuzz in Nagpur. “The top four need to stand up and really take control. We did that in a couple of games, last game in Bangalore to be particular. But we are not doing it consistently enough. We are not giving ourselves the chance to really go hard at the back end of the game and getting partnerships in the middle, something we need to look at.”
Australia had lost the series in Indore which was their third loss in the five-match series but came back strongly to win the Bangalore ODI. In Nagpur, Australia got off to a good start with David Warner and Aaron Finch taking them to 60/0 from 10 overs. But, they slipped from 100/1 to 118/4 before Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis took them to 205/4. They eventually managed only 242/9.
“I don’t think we had enough runs. We needed to take wickets and obviously was trying with different people to try and get a breakthrough and put some pressure. I thought Rohit played very well and timed his innings to perfection. It was disappointing… The new ball is probably the best time to bat and the wicket slowed up. and I felt the ball got pretty old pretty quickly. Our plan was to try and hopefully get a few early wickets to try and contain the runs as much as possible with the spinners going to get a bit of help with the ball going softer and reversing and probably spinning a bit more too… But, yeah, we weren’t good enough and were outplayed by India.”
The collapse did not happen for the first time in the series though. Smith admitted to having a talk with his team after the second game in Kolkata. Australia suffered the same fate in the third, fourth and fifth ODI. In Indore, Australia followed up for 293. In Bangalore, they made 334 and in Nagpur, they could manage only 242. This is after they looked good to cross 300-run mark in Indore, 375-run mark in Bangalore and 275-run mark in Nagpur. Australia looked good to win the Kolkata ODI with Smith and Stoinis scoring half-centuries after openers Warner and Hilton Cartwright had failed. But, no other batsmen could handle the spin of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
“It’s been addressed several times,” conceded Smith. “We are just not taking our words out in the middle and delivering with our actions unfortunately. We have glimpses of it, play well in periods and then we just get ourselves in trouble, probably from poor decision making, under pressure maybe. That’s what we might have to put it down to, worst of all. It’s just not good enough.”
“We had a chat after our second game. It was about playing the spinners and hitting the ball down the ground,” said Smith. “I thought we did that in a couple of games… and then today Virat set some really good fields and stopped us from hitting and I don’t think we adapted well enough. Today was probably a day when we could have used softer hands, played a bit square and hit the ball into the gaps instead of actually hitting the ball down the ground. We probably didn’t adapt as well as we would have liked to,” he added.
The Australia captain threatened the current players and said that cricketers playing the domestic One-Day Cup in Australia can always take their spot in the national team. He hoped that few players from that competition can score big runs. The captain also said that players know their role in the team.
“I think they know their role and the template of the way we want to play. We are just not doing it consistently enough,” Smith said. “We talk about making big scores and setting it up for the guys to have an onslaught in the last 10-15 overs. When we do it well, we get the results we are after. We are just not doing it consistently enough to get the results we need and it’s something we need to work on.
“Some guys are back home playing the one-day domestic competition at the moment and there’re some guys there that can put some pressure on the guys that are here. Obviously the results haven’t been good enough and we want our guys to perform consistently. We will have a good look at the one-day competition back home and hopefully a few guys can jump out of the pack and score big runs and bowl really well as well,” he added.
On his own form, Smith said that he was not having a good start to the series but he is now okay now. He managed only two half-centuries in the series and 20 more runs in other three ODIs.
“I wasn’t feeling great at the start of the series, but I’m feeling okay now. I had a few issues that I was working on but I guess I slowly found out a nice tempo which I’m after. I would have loved to score a lot more of runs. Having not been able to get those runs like I have been in the past few occasions… from that aspect, as a leader of the team, has been disappointing. But I guess that’s cricket. You have those periods when you’re not playing or getting the scores that you like… Something that hopefully I can turn around and contribute in the T20Is,” he said.