Pitches, wickets, Australia star Steve Smith Test team leave for India
After being given “irrelevant” pitches that didn’t turn for tour matches the last time they traveled to India, new Allan Border medalist Steve Smith is happy to avoid the same issue this time around.
The Australians flew out for the four-Test series on Tuesday morning after doing their own preparation for the spin pitches they will face on specially made wickets in Sydney.
Despite some criticism of the lack of tour matches, particularly from former Australia captain Michael Clarke, Smith said it was a waste of time when they toured in 2017 – a series the tourists lost 2-1 did when Smith was captain.
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He said they were tipping “green-top” wickets and not the furious spinners they needed exposure to, so were not worried about the lack of exposure to the new conditions in match-type situations.
“We usually have two tour games left in England. This time we don’t have a tour match in India,” Smith said before departing from Sydney airport on Tuesday.
“The last time we went, I’m pretty sure we served up a green top (to practice on) and it was kind of irrelevant.
“Hopefully we get some really good practice facilities where the ball is likely to do what it’s likely to do in the middle, and we can get our practice in.
Australia lost 2-1 to India in 2017. Photo: AFP PHOTO / Prakash SinghSource: AFP
“We’ll wait and see when we hit the ground running. I think we made the right decision not to play a tour game.
“Like I said, last time they dished us a green top and we barely faced any spin, so it’s kind of irrelevant.
“We are better off having our own nets and getting spinners in and bowling as much as possible.”
The Australians have been assured that the practice wickets in India will at least reflect what they are likely to get in the Test matches.
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During a camp in Sydney last week, curators set up a practice pitch that was raked and cut up with significant cracks to try to replicate Indian conditions. The Aussies also used the Indian SG balls.
“We feel like the surfaces we’ve got are very similar to what we’re going to face in India, which is very difficult to replicate, but we feel like we’ve come close to it,” Australian coach Andrew McDonald said.
“There is often (there) no real connection between that practice match in the first test match. We feel like we can control the acreage here … and hopefully it pays dividends on the back end.”
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Australia have not won a series in India since 2004 and that is not lost on Smith, who cemented his place in history on Monday night when he won a fourth Allan Border Medal as the best player in 2022.
“It’s definitely big. I don’t know if that (winning in India) is the final frontier,” Smith said.
“I’ve never won there, I’ve been there twice (for Tests), it’s always difficult to play there.
“India and England – our two opponents over the next six months – are probably our biggest as an Australian Test cricketer.
“We have challenges ahead of us, but the guys are ready for it.”
The first Test starts on February 9 in Nagpur.