Twenty seven months after he played the last of his five Tests, Steven Smith would resume his Test career in Mohali, a venue wherein his first appearance, as a substitute fielder, ended in dejection, as his run-out attempt of India’s only remaining pair missed the stumps by a whisker, and rattled into the ropes for four overthrows. In the celebratory exultation of Indian batsmen, Smith’s disconsolate face was lost.
Two-and-half years later, a recollection of the incident brings a roguish smirk on his face. “I hope it doesn’t get that bad this time round. I think I’ve improved a lot the last 12 to 18 months. I’ve changed a couple of things with my technique that have made me a bit more stable at the crease, a bit more balanced and more selective as well,” he said.
The 23-year-old says he has considerably tightened his batting. “I feel like I’m tightening my technique up quite a bit and I feel as if I’ve been playing spin really well on this trip in the nets and previously as well. I’m looking forward to getting out there and having a crack in the middle and hopefully I’ll be successful,” he said.
Though he endured a modest Sheffield season, scoring 296 runs at 37 in eight innings with not even a hundred, Smith was relatively at ease playing the spinners in the first tour game against the Board President’s Eleven in Chennai, in which he churned out 41 runs off 107 balls. “I’ve been training very hard on this tour. There’s been quite a few of us on the sidelines and we’ve got a good chance to get in the nets and work on our skills at those times. I feel I’ve done that and I’m going really well at the moment,” he said.
However, his inclusion hasn’t gone well with various sections of the Australian media, many of who reckon he isn’t adept at being a specialist number five.
For someone who made his debut as a bowler, the latter facet has regressed. “I’ve probably always been more of a batsman. The first two Tests I played, I played as a bowler. At NSW, we’ve got Steve O’Keefe and young Adam Zampa coming through as a leg-spinner. I haven’t had to do a hell of a lot of bowling in the last year or two,” he said.