The young Australian captain Steven Smith — his middle names are Peter Devereux — highlighted the importance of batting for long periods of time in order to compete with the home team in the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Smith has an outstanding record in the six Test matches he has played against India: 930 runs, four centuries (162 n.o. at Adelaide, 133 at Brisbane, 192 at Melbourne and 117 at Sydney) and three half centuries, for a phenomenal average of 93, scored at 3.63 runs an over.
Smith scored all these runs against the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Karn Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and it was his four first-innings centuries that resulted in Australia scoring a 2-0 victory over India in the 2014-15 series.
It was two years ago that he proved to be a thorn in the flesh for the Indians at home, but he had given glimpses of his batting wherewithal in the Mohali and Delhi Test of the 2012-13 series in India.
Thrashed by India at Chepauk (by eight wickets) and at Hyderabad (by an innings and 135 runs), Australia — led by Michael Clarke (in the first three Tests) and by Shane Watson (in the Delhi Test) — gave Smith a chance to bat at No. 5 in Indian conditions and he grabbed it with both hands.
He batted for four minutes short of four hours to score 92 in his first Test innings at Mohali and thereafter spent a little over two and half hours in the first innings at the Kotla to make 46; he fell to four different bowlers in his first four innings in India; Ojha, Bhuvneshwar, Ashwin and Jadeja.
With Michael Clarke out of the scene now, Australia would expect opener David Warner (145 and 102 in the Adelaide Test of 2014-15 and 101 at Sydney) to take on India’s new ball attack and the spinners, but it will depend on its captain to provide the stability in the middle order.
Smith showed — at Mohali and Delhi — that occupying the crease would not be a task and in the home series, he made the Indians wait for long hours. He batted for 298 and 103 minutes at Adelaide, 301 and 75 minutes at Brisbane, 423 and 47 minutes at Melbourne and 268 and 92 minutes at Sydney.
So it was not for nothing that Smith said “batting for long periods of time” to counter the Indian seamers and spinners. He has been a regular feature in the IPL from 2012, playing in all 54 matches for Pune Warriors, Rajasthan Royals and Rising Pune Supergiants of which he has been named the captain this season.
Only on occasions he has been spectacular with the bat, but he has played at 19 Indian venues to have a fair idea of different pitch and weather conditions.
In the only warm-up game against India-A on a flat deck at the Brabourne Stadium, Smith got down to business with all seriousness for close to three and half hours and scored an unbeaten century (107 retd. out).
He will be the fulcrum around which Australia will aim to compete against India.