Mumbai, January 7
Two months ago, after Australia had become a national travesty, Steve Smith, Australia skipper, probably could not have envisioned his team’s sudden change of fortune. Well removed from the gloom of November, where they had been embarrassed on home soil by South Africa, there is much goodwill fostering among a new-look Australian team which has won four straight Tests since the debacle in Hobart.
Despite some challenges earlier in the series, particularly during a memorable backend to the first Test in Brisbane, Australia won the key moments and eventually cracked apart Pakistan’s pluck. Once again, for the fourth straight series, Australia has whitewashed Pakistan on home soil; it was a worthy achievement and continues to fuel Australia’s growing momentum. In other words, it was mission accomplished but Smith knows it could well amount to naught, if Australia gets eviscerated during the upcoming tour of India. In the press conference after Australia convincingly won the third Test in Sydney by 220 runs on Saturday (January 7), Smith looked contented – a far cry from the jarring sight of his dejection in the aftermath of Hobart. However, Smith didn’t exactly exude elation knowing the daunting tour of India awaits, a challenge which has numerously proven too difficult for Australia and broken spirits along the way. Immediately, attention has turned to that crux series which is set to be a major crossroad during this new period of Smith’s captaincy, which had a makeover after Hobart.
Smith believes the tour of India starting in February was going to be a major obstacle. “Obviously, it is going to be a very difficult series,” he said. “We are under no illusions it is going to be tough. We are going to have to play some very good cricket if we are going to compete over there. It is going to be a great challenge and learning curve for this group.
“I think the core of this group will take part in India. A few of us have been there before and we know it is extremely difficult to play them in their own backyard,” he added. “There is going to be a few players added to the squad…we are going to have to play extremely well over there if we are going to compete with India.”
In many ways, it felt like the third Test in Sydney was a dress rehearsal for Australia’s tour of India with Stephen O’Keefe playing as the second spinner and Hilton Cartwright added as the all-rounder. Smith said the tour was going to be an initiation with many of their players having never played in the demanding Indian conditions.
“(Many of the) guys haven’t experienced the conditions, which is going to be tough too,” he said. “It is a completely different place to play on those wickets, nothing like playing on wickets here in Australia. Guys are going to have to adapt quickly and be successful in those conditions.
“You probably want one of your batters to bowl some overs as well, we will wait and see who gets picked and go from there,” he added. (O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon) did a great job….they spin the ball different ways, so you can use them to certain batters. Nice to have two different spinners in your team.”
Right now, Australia has regrouped with Smith deserving a lion share of the credit for the quick rebuild. Undoubtedly, it has been a roller-coaster ride for Smith but, importantly, he believed the team had a collective bond which he felt immediately.
“When we all got together and trained in Adelaide (before the third Test against South Africa), straight away I saw a shift in attitude and energy and enthusiasm in the group,” he said. “We were able to put all of that out in the middle. We were able to score big runs in every game…build pressure and we’ve caught well this series, which has been a big focus of ours.
“It was pretty tough times…you lose your first two Tests of an Australian summer and you’re not in a good place,” he added. “Wasn’t great times but I’m really proud how the guys have come in and turned it around since then. We’ve played some very good cricket and that’s what I want us to play. I’m really pleased for everyone involved. We brought some values into the group and things for guys to live by. Everyone has done that since they’ve come in and that’s been great.”
Mumbai, January 7