The world’s best batsman Steve Smith has revealed a training breakthrough has him feeling like his old self at the crease for the first time since cricket’s Covid break. In a major warning to India ahead of the summer, an excited Smith declared on Tuesday his game had benefited from his two-week stint in hotel quarantine.
The 31-year-old will enter this summer off a disappointing IPL season where he averaged 25.91 for Rajasthan. While he has not played since 1 November, the self-confessed cricket nuffie said training in quarantine with the smaller group of Australians who played IPL gave him more time in the nets.
His biggest breakthrough came on Sunday as some familiar feelings returned while batting. “The past few days I have found something … I have found my hands which I am extremely excited about,” Smith said. “It’s taken me about three-and-a-half or four months to do it.
“It’s taken a lot longer than usual. I don’t know why, whether it was because I didn’t bat for four months at the start of Covid. I’m actually looking forward to going back to the nets again to reinforce it.”
Smith’s declaration sounds simple but is crucial. The former national captain has previously spoken about re-finding his hands before the 2017-18 Ashes, where he hit averaged a Bradman-esque 137.40.
A similar thing happened mid-match in the 2015-16 Perth Test against New Zealand. He hit a century in the next innings, a crucial match-high 53 in the maiden day-night Test that followed and averaged 214 and 131 in the next two series.
“Theoretically it is a simple thing,” Smith said. “It’s just getting that feel of the bat behind my toe the right way, the way my hands come up the bat, it’s hard to explain. But it just hasn’t quite been right until two days ago. I found a little something and everything just clicked in.
“It changes where you meet the ball, so you hit it in different places. Just slight things and bits of rhythm aren’t quite right. I had a big smile on my face after training the other day and I walked past [assistant coach] Andrew McDonald and said ‘I found them again’.”
Smith already shapes as the likely biggest thorn in India’s side this summer, beginning with Friday’s one-day series opener at the SCG. He averages 69.41 against them in all formats, and had to watch on two years ago as they became the first team from Asia to win a Test series in Australia.
“In big series I try and stand up and get the best out of myself, whether it be an Ashes or India series,” Smith said of his record. “Whether there is something more inside me that comes out, I’m not sure. It also comes down to getting rhythms against bowlers. Quite often in the first Test or game of a series against India I have started well and have been able to get in a bit of rhythm.”