Mohali: Turning tracks, it seems, have tied the inexperienced Australians’ minds in a knot.
Unsure about the situation and puzzled about their own abilities, the visiting side, mostly comprising youngsters, have failed to unravel the subcontinental mystery.
But with the coming of sports psychologist Michael Lloyd, the Aussies now have a doctor for that ailment. And if Steven Smith’s words are a clue, they have surrendered their case to Lloyd.
Speaking at a media conference after first day’s play at Mohali was washed off, Smith revealed that he has spoken to Lloyd and that having a “clear mind” has been the invaluable advice. “I’ve had a little brief chat with him. He’s very good at his job… It’s just about the mental side of things and trying to prepare and making sure you’ve got a clear mind,” Smith said.
The immensely talented Smith has the distinction of representing Australia in all three formats of the game at a young age of 23. He is making a comeback to the Test team after more than two years. It’s winning-a-lottery like opportunity for him as he has benefited from the suspension of Usman Khawaja. And he is eager to make the most of it.
“I play my best cricket when my mind’s clear. I don’t have too much thought running through it about pre-meditating or doing different things. That was the main thing I got out of. Just trying to have a clear mind and play each ball on its merit,” Smith said on Thursday.
Highlighting how he has worked on his game to be a better player, Smith said: “I think I’ve improved a lot in the last 12 to 18 months. I’ve changed a couple of things with my technique and that has made me a bit more stable at the crease, a bit more balanced and more selective as well.”
With the Aussies finding it difficult in handling the twists and turns of the Indian spinners, Smith claimed that he is quite prepared for the test. “I feel like I’m tightening my technique up quite a bit and I feel as if I’ve been playing spin really well on this trip in the nets and previously as well.
“I have been training very hard on this tour. I’m looking forward to getting out there and having a crack in the middle and, hopefully, I will be successful,” Smith said.
Once considered a talented leg-spinner, Smith has been chosen for the Mohali Test as the No.5 batsman.
“I’ve probably always been more of a batsman than I was a bowler. Getting picked in different teams in those roles was very special. The first two Tests I played, I played as a bowler. It’s a bit different now to come in as a No. 5 specialist batter and that’s something I’ve worked really hard on in the last couple of years, tightening my technique up and becoming more balanced and getting big runs,” Smith said explaining his case.
Refusing to admit that the Aussies are under pressure, Smith said: “I wouldn’t say we are under pressure… Rather this is an opportunity for us to come back in the series. The fact is India have played really well. But now we have a chance to make it 1-2 and then hopefully 2-2 in Delhi.”
That’s a pretty clear target, but do they have a clear mind?