MUMBAI: For touring Australian sides, India has always presented myriad challenges. In 2004, Steve Waugh had labelled beating India in India the ‘Final Frontier’. Current Australia captain Steve Smith believes a series win here could go down as ‘the best time of our lives’. With the Men in Blue slowly pulling on the cloak of invincibility — they have been undefeated for 19 Tests — Australia are keener than ever not to play the perfect guests.
“Each of our individuals play the way they play. If that means people want to get into a battle verbally, if that gets the best of out them, then go for it,” said Smith at a press conference on Tuesday. A veiled warning to India that if need be, a battle can be won with a volley or two from the mouth.
Smith sounded confident and said it’s all in the mind. “It’s about us making things sure as individuals. Right now, I must admit we are in the right frame of mind to go out and succeed. In the end what matters is playing on skill, and making sure that our set of skills are in the best place to succeed in these conditions.”
The Australian squad had a preparatory camp in Dubai for 10 days, where they simulated Indian conditions, including fourth and fifth day pitches. They also worked with former left-arm spinners, Monty Panesar (England) and Sridharan Sriram (India), to sharpen their play against spin. Australia don’t have the most impressive record in India. They have won 12 out of 46 Tests here, and lost 19. The four-Test series starts on February 23.
“The advantage of having Sri and Monty was just guiding our batters and bowlers on how to bowl here and how to face the Indian spinners,” said Australia coach Darren Lehmann. “We know that’s going to be the key this series, how way we play their spinners.”
Smith emphasized that batting in Test cricket is about taking the right decision and being consistent with them. “The good decisions need to be for long periods,” he said. “We simulated difficult conditions in Dubai where the ball was turning and there was some inconsistent bounce. It’s so foreign to the conditions we get back at home. So, the guys have worked hard. Now it’ll be about implementing them into the game.”
Two of the chief architects of India’s unbeaten run have been captain Virat Kohli and off-spinner R Ashwin. Kohli has scored a double hundred in four successive Test series, while Ashwin became the fastest to 250 Test wickets in the one-off Test against Bangladesh.
“Yes, we’re trying to form a game plan, but I’m not going to tell you what it is,” said Smith of his opposite number in the India camp. “I think all the guys are really excited about what’s to come in the next six weeks. It’s a great challenge to play in India.”