Former Australian men’s captain Steve Smith is excited for the rest of the T20 World Cup and is clear in his role. But the star batter is keeping an eye on the upcoming Ashes, with the series having the potential to define his career.
The Australian team got their T20 World Cup underway with a nervy final over win over South Africa at Abu Dhabi now travel to the capital of Dubai for their next three matches.
Smith was Australia’s leading batsman in the first win against South Africa. The right-hander made 35 from 34 balls before being dismissed by the quick bowling of Anrich Nortje.
While he has faced criticism over recent weeks regarding a lack of a power game, the right-hander spoke to the media on his role within the T20 batting line-up.
“My job is to fix it if the top order doesn’t come off and build a partnership with whoever I’m batting with. And if the top order does go well, the likelihood is ill slide slightly down the order and let the big strong boys attack it,” he said from team headquarters in the UAE.
“We are all clear on our roles and how he wants to play; it’s just a matter of getting the job done.”
A lot of talk recently has been about the pitches in the UAE with some decks playing low and slow after the grounds were being used for the recently completed IPL and now the World Cup. Smith, however, is confident in his game which suits these types of wickets and conditions on offer.
“You’ve got to sum up the conditions, even though the IPL, there was a lot of scrappy cricket and not a lot of high scores. It’s slightly different to a lot of T20 cricket you would play often you seen flat wickets and big scores.” He added.
“It has been interesting so far; I don’t think 120 against South Africa was indicative of the surface, but I think we’re going to see plenty of scrappy cricket in this tournament.
“I think sometimes you need the ability to be able to get off strike and manipulate the ball rather than just the powers. Some of the power-hitting have struggled to hit sixes on this wicket. You need some smarts in your game to hit gaps and rotate the field, in my role, that’s pretty simple.
Heading into three tough matches in Dubai against Sri Lanka, England, and Bangladesh, the Australians will be tested against elite spin bowlers. An area of the game in which Australia has struggled in T20 cricket for a long time.
Smith is undoubtedly one of the best batters against spin in the Australian line-up and his role within the middle order will be vital for Australia’s chances of moving into the semi-finals.
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With an Ashes series only just over a month away, is keeping an eye on the red ball. With the recent news that England all-rounder Ben Stokes will play in the Ashes, Smith looks forward to the challenge that lies ahead of him.
“I hadn’t given much thought to it [Ben Stokes playing]; I think he missed the whole summer over there with some mental health stuff. Any time someone can come back from that is good news. We always love to come up against the best players, so it’s great to see him on the plane.
“Any team is more dangerous when you’ve got someone like Ben Stokes playing, so it certainly adds a lot to their depth. I’m glad he is able to get back and playing some cricket.”
Smith has struggled for the last two years with an elbow injury that has reduced his training time. While he is still somewhat struggling with this issue, he compared the feeling when batting to what Stokes was experiencing with a finger injury.
“It’s never comfortable when you’re going through pain in the middle. It’s not a comfortable place to be in. When you’re not able to fill your duties in the way you’d like, it’s never great, so it’s good Stokes can be back batting.”
On top of his injury, Stokes took some time off for his mental health. Steve Smith spoke of his support of taking time off when it’s needed.
“We’ve seen it a lot more the acceptance of people when they aren’t doing well mentally—credit to Ben for stepping back when he needed to and step away. There is more out there than cricket. It’s really important for people going forward.
Australia’s next match will be played early Friday morning on the east coast of Australia, with the first ball coming down at 1 am against Sri Lanka.
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