Cricket

IPL was disappointing but two days back, I think I found my hands: Smith ahead of India series

Australia’s Steve Smith. File   | Photo Credit: AP

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 gainst 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.

“You are alluding to the short pitched bowling approach that others might take (watching Wagner’s bowling to him). That’s kind of flattering if people think that’s the only way to get me out as they have exhausted all other options,” he said.

He then complimented Wagner for bowling consistently in the line between his rib cage and shoulder.

“Neil Wagner got the better of me in the last Test series (vs NZ at home). He has a set of skills that not many people can do and he does it for a long period of time while changing the pace of deliveries.”

Smith agreed that constantly staying in a bio-bubble is not sustainable in the long run.

“I don’t think bio-bubble is sustainable for a long period of time. We know mental health is important and we have seen guys being able to come out and talk about it. It is important to do that,” he said.

He also avoided the sensitive issue of whether he would like to captain Australia again considering that Aaron Finch and Tim Paine are doing a good job. Smith was removed from the position after the 2018 ball-tampering scandal.

“I don’t really have an answer at the present time and something I haven’t given much thought about. Just backing up Tim and Finchy as they have done a good job during last two years.

“My job is to score runs at the moment. I haven’t given it a great deal of thought and let’s see what the future holds,” he signed off.

The series will be aired on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Six channels.

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