Steve Smith on no warm-up games: ‘Last time we got served up a green-top (to practice on) and it was sort of irrelevant’
The first competitive game Australia would play in India would be the first Test in Nagpur, as they snubbed the usual routine of playing warm-up games in the build-up to the four-Test series. Ace batsman Steve Smith explained the reason, before they flew to Bangalore, where they would be based for five days, on Monday evening. “The last time we went I’m pretty sure we got served up a green-top (to practice on) and it was sort of irrelevant. We’re better off having our own nets and getting spinners in and bowling as much as they can.We’ll wait and see when we hit the ground. I think we’ve made the right decision to not play a tour match,” he said.
Coach Andrew McDonald too had explained the rationale behind the decision: No tour game is something we’ve done in the last few series, before embarking on overseas tours. We feel as though we don’t need that match practice as such. We’re going to go to India about a week out from the first game. We didn’t want to press for too much longer, in terms of the preparation,” he told Sydney Morning Herald.
“We’ve done it before with the Pakistan build-up in Melbourne. Dusting up wickets. Working with the local groundsmen who really help us in and around the country.We feel as though we can get as close to that as possible without necessarily having a practice game,” he added.
There, though, has been widespread criticism from former Australian cricketers for not opting for warm-up games. None more scathing than former captain Michael Clarke. “That’s the part I don’t understand,” Clarke said. “The no tour game before the first Test in India. I hope I’m proven wrong but I think that is going to be significant. Batting in those conditions in one-day cricket and T20 cricket is one thing, batting in Indian conditions in Test cricket it is a completely different game,” he told Big Sports.
Their preparation for the tour included a condensed training camp in
North Sydney at the weekend, where curators were asked to prepare a pitch that might mimic a dry, cracked deck in India. “We feel as though seven days is ample time to get ready and to make sure we maintain freshness throughout the whole four Test match series.”
“Not a final frontier”
Smith, though, resisted from calling the tour the “final frontier.” “It’s certainly huge. I don’t know if it’s the final frontier. India and England – our two opponents over the next six months – are probably our biggest as an Australian Test cricketer. We’ve got some challenges in front of us, but the guys are ready for it. I’ve never won (in India), I’ve been there twice. In fact it’s been very difficult playing there.” he added.
In Smith’s previous tour to India, he racked up 499 runs at an average of 71 including three glorious hundreds. It followed a three-year purple patch before his form dipped narrowly, only to rediscover the touch in the last year. In his last 16 innings in all formats since, Smith has hammered 1027 runs at 85.58 with four centuries. “I’m starting to feel like I felt back then. It sounds strange because I’ve scored quite a few runs in the meantime,” Smith said.
“The optimum for me, I’ve got that back in terms of my grip, and where my feet are going, and how my weight is transferring. I feel in a really good place so hopefully the next six months is really big for me and the team,” he added.
He said he would relish batting on spinning tracks. “I really enjoy playing on those spinning tracks there, so much fun and there’s always something happening,” he said.
However, he emphasised that not all surfaces tend to be spinning tracks, as they would be hyped before the game. “But you know, if they’re not the spinning ones and they’re a bit flatter there, the ones where you can really cash in and you have to make big, big scores. I think that’s certainly one thing that I’ll be telling the boys when we get over there.
“That’s one of my experiences that I’ve had, and you can only play according to the surface that’s in front of you.”