‘Underdog’ Australia will give tough fight: Smith

Pune, Feb 22 (IANS) Despite admitting that his team will start the upcoming four-Test series against India as underdogs, Australia captain Steven Smith asserted on Wednesday that the visitors are confident of giving a tough fight to the hosts.

The Virat Kohli-led Indian team have won six consecutive Test series and are unbeaten in their last 19 Test matches — a streak which started in August 2015.

With star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja in excellent form and the Indian pace attack also showing promise, the hosts are expected to be be a handful for what is being seen as one of the weakest Australian teams to tour the subcontinent.

Former off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has even predicted that the Australians will lose all four Test matches. But Smith begs to differ.

“I guess we are the underdogs in this series. We hear comments like Harbhajan said he expects us to lose 4-0. That’s not how we feel. We want to compete here against India and it is going to be a tough series. They have got some quality players in their line-up from one to 11. So yeah, it is going to be difficult,” Smith told reporters here on Wednesday.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But I don’t believe that’s the case. I’m confident about the squad we have got here to compete against India. It’s going to be a difficult series. India have played some very good cricket, particularly at home. So we are under no illusions that it is going to be tough.”

The current Australian team have been poor away from home. They have lost their last nine Tests in the subcontinent, including a 0-3 drubbing in Sri Lanka last year.

Smith admitted that the Australians need to approach the series with a positive mindset and rise to the occasion during crucial moments.

“We have to start things afresh. We have come here with a positive mindset. The more we think about the last time we came here or Sri Lanka, we start to lose the battle set straight away. For me it is about learning from what has come before us and have a positive mindset once we get out there,” the 27-year-old said.

“But I guess what I want from my boys is the ability to adapt to the plans we have in place, show some fire and rise to the tough situations. There are going to be some difficult moments. We need to identify the key moments, and hopefully we can have the skills and mindsets in place to counter those difficult moments,” he added.

“Hopefully we have got the squad here that can compete in these conditions.”

Ashwin and Jadeja had bagged a total of 53 wickets over four Tests during Australia’s last visit to India in 2013. With the duo going through a purple patch in recent times, Smith opined that the visitors need to have plans in place in order to counter them.

“Spin bowling in Asia is about uncertainty of what the ball is going to do off the pitch. While playing spinners in Australia, the bounce is generally quite consistent. It is places where there is uncertainty you can become unstuck as a batsman,” the right-handed batsman said.

“For us it is about ensuring that you have plans to play against spinners of the calibre of Ashwin, Jadeja and any other spinner they may employ against us.”

He also backed Australia’s pace spearhead Mitchell Starc to do well in Indian conditions.

“He has got the ability to bowl at 150 kmph. That is a good start. But with that you also got to have some skills to take wickets on particularly slow pitches. He is a very good reverse swing bowler. He controls the ball really well so that is a great starting point for being an effective fast bowler in subcontinent conditions where you cannot bounce guys out,” Smith said.

“You have to have plans and getting the ball to shift in the air. When the ball is shifting, he is one of the best going around.”

The Australian captain also opined that the wicket seems to be extremely dry and asserted that he will ascertain the conditions on the morning of the opening day of the first Test before announcing the line-up.

“We don’t have a team as yet. We’ll wait until the toss to announce that. But we’ve got a few options, got a very big squad here to cover all options. At the moment, the wicket looks incredibly dry for a day before the Test match. So it will depend on what sort of combination we want to go in with,” Smith said.

–IANS

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