Australian batting mainstay Steve Smith on Tuesday said he has “found his hands” after a disappointing IPL campaign and is ready to torment the visiting Indian bowlers when the two sides lock horns in an eagerly-awaited showdown across formats starting November 27.
Smith, who captained Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, managed only 311 runs in 14 games and mostly looked out of touch but a couple of days back, he said he finally found his “touch” and is now ready to put his best foot forward.
“I was pretty disappointed with my batting throughout the IPL. For my sort of standards, I wasn’t consistent enough. I did play a few innings here and there but not consistently,” Smith said during a virtual press conference facilitated by the series’ official broadcaster ‘Sony Network’.
“I think in the last few days, people who know me well, said that I have found my hands and I am excited about it. So I plan to have a few more hits at the nets and get started in a few days time,” said Smith, who would be an integral part of the white-ball games also.
The engagement against India comprises three ODIs, as many T20 Internationals and four Tests. It begins with the ODIs on November 27 and the Tests will start from December 17.
So when did he feel that he has got his rhythm back?
“It was about getting that feel in the way my hands come up. It’s hard to explain but it probably wasn’t quite being right till two days ago,” Smith said.
“Then something clicked two days ago. It changes where you meet the ball. I had that big smile on my face while training the other day. It’s taken me a lot longer than usual.
“I didn’t bat for four months during COVID (lockdown) so don’t know if it took me a bit longer to get that rhythm back.”
Smith admitted that during the IPL, trying to change his natural game affected his batting, something he realised after training with the national team.
“In IPL, I got caught up with trying to be a bit more powerful and that’s not my game. There are players in the world who can hit sixes at will and I am probably not one of those.
“It is about playing the cricketing shots and manipulating the gaps available. Probably, it (natural game) went away in the IPL from doing that. So now, I am keeping the thoughts clear that I will only hit the balls in my areas.”
Ask how he has been so successful against India (6 Test hundreds and few more in ODIs), he feels it’s the quality of the opposition that brings the best out of him.
“I don’t know. In a big series, I try and stand up and get the best out of myself. Ashes and India series are the two biggest and as an Australian cricketer, there is something inside me that comes out and I am not sure.
“I have always started the first Test well against India and that gives me a bit of rhythm throughout the rest of the series. It’s something to do with that,” said the man with 26 Test hundreds and 7000-plus runs.
There has been some talk about short-pitched bowling, which has also been his problem. Smith said that only someone like New Zealand’s Neil Wagner, with a specific skill-set, has been a issue for him.
Rohit’s absence will be a void in white ball, ditto for Virat in Tests: Smith
Smith reckons Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli’s absence will leave a “big hole” in the Indian team but the visitors have a lot of talented players who can put their hands up in pressure situations.
Rohit, who is nursing a hamstring injury, is out of white ball series and is still doubtful starter for Test matches while skipper Kohli will be on paternity leave after the first Day/Night Test in Adelaide.
“Look, Rohit is obviously a tremendous white-ball player, he has proven that for a number of years now at the top of the order, so obviously it leaves a bit of hole,” Smith said during a virtual press conference facilitated by Sony Network.
“You can look at someone like Mayank Agarwal in the IPL, just smashed, KL Rahul in the top order as well. There are plenty of options there for them so, look you leave a hole no doubt, but quality players there to back him up,” Smith explained.
He feels that it’s the same for Kohli in Test matches.
“The same (like Rohit) I think with Virat and the Test squad. You know there are a number of players who can come in and do a good job.
“Virat is of obviously of high quality, and we know how good he has been in all forms for a long period of times, so it is certainly going to leave a hole but I still do believe that they have got some quality batters waiting in the wings to fill that void.”
During last India Test series in Australia, Smith was banned for ball tampering and missed out on challenging one of his favourite opposition.
Will it make him hungrier?
“I don’t know if it makes me hungrier. I am always pretty hungry to go out and perform and do well. I guess it was tough watching from the sidelines and particularly with the team not doing as well,” he said.
He admitted that it was difficult to see Tim Paine’s boys lose the series 1-2.
“Obviously they wouldn’t have liked losing that series. That was difficult to watch, that was hard but certainly look forward to this series, two of the top teams in the word going out, two quality pace and batting -line ups and makes for an interesting and exciting summer.”
Sledging according to Smith is over-rated in India versus Australia contests especially after all players converge during IPL and no one wants an awkward situation.
“People talk so much about sledging and stuff but really there is very little that happens in our days. I think that’s probably a lot to do with things like IPL,” he said.
“You know IPL brings players from all around the world together, so for instance if you get stuck in to someone one day, you might be playing with them a few weeks or few months later.
“….And then, it’s a bit awaked sort of conversation, so honestly, it does not happen too much in our days.”
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