Australia in India 2017 January 23, 2017

Smith challenges Warner to go big in India


Steven Smith: 'Everyone in our team has got the shots, but get yourself in, things get easier, and then be willing to go big' © Getty Images

Australia captain Steven Smith has challenged his deputy David Warner to do a Karun Nair and go on to make the sort of monumental scores that will be essential if the tourists are to have any hope of besting India at home next month.

In a frank interview with ESPNcricinfo, Smith also declared his side's recent aggressive batting approach in Asian conditions to be "rubbish" and pinpointed the left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe as critical to Australia's chances.

Warner, who made his second century in as many matches on his SCG home turf on Sunday, also led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the 2016 IPL title, but has not reached three figures in an overseas Test for more than two years. Smith said that after both captain and deputy failed to post centuries before last year's Sri Lanka series had been decided, the team's senior batsmen had to set their sights on hundreds - big ones.

"It's pretty important that our senior players step up in those conditions," Smith said. "It's something we didn't do overly well in Sri Lanka and we didn't get the results that we wanted there. I'm going to do it differently to Davey, you don't want to get rid of someone's natural flair and the way they play. But if he gets to a hundred it might be about knuckling down again and going big, get 200 or 300, like Karun Nair did a few weeks ago.

"Those are the big scores that set your team up, so we are just being hungry and willing to keep going and not let up. I think we've been guilty in the past of saying 'a ball's going to have your name on it, so get them before one gets you'. To be honest with you, it's rubbish.

"I think if your defence is good and you back that, then the one that's got your name on it generally spins past the bat or does too much. So get that out of your mind, it's not going to be said again - it's going to be about backing your defence and making sure you can bat for long enough. Everyone in our team has got the shots, but get yourself in, things get easier, and then be willing to go big."

Victories overseas are seldom achieved in the barnstorming manner Australia are used to imposing in home conditions - as the victorious 2004 India tourists have often attested. To that end, Smith said he was eager to see his men fight matches out that they are unable to dominate from the start. Too often, he said, Australian batsmen are guilty of simply playing their "natural game" rather than the situation, particularly when trying to scratch out a draw.

Steve O'Keefe - who skipped part of the BBL to prepare physically and technically for India - will be crucial to Australia's hopes of a strong performance in India, says Steven Smith © Getty Images

"Obviously you want to win first and foremost, but a draw's a much better result than a loss," Smith said. "If the game's dead and buried and we can't win, you want to see the fight and the willingness to put your natural game away and do everything you can to stay out there and get the team a draw.

"That's something we haven't done overly well in the past. When we're a long way behind the game and chasing 500 or something in the last innings, guys have still just gone out and played, rather than do what Faf [du Plessis] did in Adelaide a few years ago and just block it until the game's gone, and give yourself a chance to survive."

Smith also pinpointed O'Keefe as critical to Australia's campaign, as a bowler of the sort whose consistently pitched, skidding or spinning deliveries are so often successful in Asia. O'Keefe's spotty injury record was to the visitors' great cost last year, when he looked highly dangerous in the first Test in Sri Lanka but was then lost to the match and the series with a hamstring strain.

"He has had some issues with his body, and I think he has done the right thing taking the BBL off," Smith said. "I think he's going to be a big player for us in those conditions. He understands how to bowl in those conditions, he had a bit of success in the A tour in India.

"He was a big loss for us in Sri Lanka, he looked like taking a wicket every ball, and he has worked with Sri [bowling consultant Sridharan Sriram] from India who understands how to bowl in those conditions as well, understands the different arm angles, seam positions and paces you have to bowl on those wickets. That's a big plus. If we're going to have success on this tour, he's going to be a big part of it."

The full interview with Steven Smith is here

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Laxman on January 29, 2017, 23:44 GMT

    Warner couldn't go big in Srilanka in their last tour. How is he gonna do any better in India, eh.

  • Ash on January 29, 2017, 6:46 GMT

    dont thing smith should be saying anything to warner.

    Warner is two time AB medallist, the better player and probably a better leader.

  • aflemi2448224 on January 26, 2017, 12:22 GMT

    @BRISVEGAN has the most balanced comments of all 200+ should be a tight entertaining series with both captains in career best form supported by some exp & established (Warner, Saha) players and new young-guns (Karun, Handscomb) with outrageous totals being normal in SC -bowling will be the match-winning element & given the amount Ashwin has been forced to play he may well be mentally trained halfway thru series - Starc could break down physically making player omissions the match-winning factor. Expect 2-1 result to IND but if Warner does actually heed Smith's call and matures as a test opener to score Big then who knows it could be 2-1 to AUS - there has been so much funny trash-talk about 4-0 white-washes @AUSSIENSW haha relax bro maybe 2/3 (IND, CT, Ashes) fact is both teams are much stronger than previous teams were in 2012/13 so should be a thrilling series!

  • laksvi5642713 on January 25, 2017, 8:53 GMT

    @ SHAANTANU ON JANUARY 24, 2017, 14:43 GMT - well said....gr8 to hear comments likeyours, and from your user name am guessing you are indian.... often, posts like yours and of many rational like minded cricket lovers get buried in the fullisade of the usual 'my team is better than yours' slug fest... just wish several of my fellow indian bloggers and the several indian names pretenders stopped the one upmanhship and the rhetoric venom so common on these blogs ....used to be a fun time to discuss the game at one point....a pity that due to this, the outsiders collective perception of us is influenced....hope someone somewhere is reading...cricinfo please publish....

  • MS on January 25, 2017, 7:41 GMT

    If our bowlers dismiss Smith & Warner early then there is no one to stop us from winning the series 4-0.

  • Manesh on January 25, 2017, 7:21 GMT

    Vijay - Rahul opening will be solid as ever. Expect a quick 100 from new gen cricketer - Rahul and a solid 150+ from relaiable Vijay. King Kohli will ensure a 100 in every single game. Then Pujara in high form of his career can ensure big 100s. Hope Rahane- the most technically perfect batsman in modern cricket - will be back to form in that series. How can you forget triple centurion Karun. He did it against a better spin attack of England. So, he can repeat it against Lyon and Co. Then Parthiv/Saha both played well . Most probably Saha will get chance because of his recent 200*. All rounders like Ashwin, Jadeja, Jayant can produce at least 2 50s from them and Bhuvi/Shami will not be bad either. Expect 500 in every inngs. So, no hope for Aus. In bowling, Shami and Umesh/Ishant combo can give early wickets, then the Ashwin, Jadejo combo will be in action and Jayant/Mishra will be in supporting role. A better England batting tail (who scored 100s) restricted under 500 on flat pitchs

  • Nik on January 24, 2017, 22:22 GMT

    @DUSTBULLIES-FLATBULLIES: first of all get ur facts right . India have 2 world cups not 1. Also yes i agree india doesnt have any series victories in aus or H2H record is not good. But in Present india is better team for sure. Aus tours UAE, SRL, India gets thrashed and even in England as well not won in england since what 2001 i think?. Atleast India won in Eng, NZL 2007 and 2009. Point is india atleast play better abroad other than 2011 thrashing unlike aus they have no clue in Subcontient. If they would have done better in UAE orSRL even i would have agreed with u that oh only in india they dont win.Also Aus keep loosing to SAF at home which is pathetic its been thrice in a row unlike India atleast they dont loose at home. Whole point is dont live in past come and see the present and reality.If Asian team need to learn to play swing then Overseas teams need to lean to play simple.Call it Dust or whatever same applies to you. Aus cant play dust or reverse or in green track?Broad 8-15

  • Raj on January 24, 2017, 20:01 GMT

    India need to take care of 2 batters (Steven Smith and David Warner); Can't see others in the equation! India wins 2-1.

  • Suryaputra on January 24, 2017, 17:25 GMT

    DUSTBULLIES-FLATBULLIES: "Aus is better team than Ind" In your dreams maybe. Sadly OFFICIAL ICC rankings disagree with you. But whatever helps you sleep eh? Oh and we would love to see your mob on a real lively wicket in Australia. It was fun watching your mob get another sub-100 all-out at Hobart against a team we thrashed 3-0 at our Home. Would love to see it again. And while talking about 2011-12, let's not forget the fearful hiding we dished out in 2013. I recall Australians looking so clueless, the coach had to set homework and put errant boys in detention. LOL!

    Also those 4 series wins you and other Aussie 'fans' keep talking up so much, 3 of them, a whopping 75% that is, came before 1970; when Cricket was played by 11 amateurs. That's equivalent of your mob beating an associate team today; although I wouldn't count on it.

  • Alex on January 24, 2017, 16:46 GMT

    Finally it seems as if they have accepted this approach, but whether they can execute it is another thing. Despite losing 4-0 England's batsmen showed what could be achieved by non-Asian batsmen in India. If Aus batsmen can put 400+ on the board then they can at least take the game deep, which is something they couldn't do in UAE and SL.

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