Smith challenges Warner to go big in India
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.
"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