These were Australian coach Justin Langer’s words on Tuesday when asked about what he was doing to address the uncharacteristic run of low scores that Australia’s No. 4 is currently registering. Langer’s statement illustrates the supreme confidence that the Australian dressing room seems to share of Smith turning things around.
Among the top-3 batsmen in Test cricket with an average of 61.33, the 31-year-old has had far from ideal returns in the two Tests with dismissals for 1, 0 and 8 in Adelaide and Melbourne. It has caused a big surprise simply because such scores have been a rare occurrence since Smith’s rebooting as a Test batsman in 2013.
He had started the Australian summer with two 62-ball tons in the ODI series against India, which prompted him to claim that he had ‘found his hands’ after a below-par IPL. But his fast hands and ability to manoeuvre the ball into gaps seem to have deserted him in the two Tests.
Smith’s predicament has been dictated largely by the exemplary planning of the Indian bowlers and precise execution. Smith’s exaggerated shuffle across the stumps to hit balls that are pitched outside off to the leg-side has been a great strength of his, but India have stuck to their guns by bowling a straighter line with leg-side fields and testing his resolve. His three dismissals for a total of nine runs have taken him 67 balls.
With the Australian batting under pressure and the series tied at 1-1, Langer expects Smith to find a solution in Sydney. “Imagine how good we will be when Smith starts scoring runs. That’s how I look at it. He hasn’t had the best of the series so far. He will be the first one to admit it. With the great players, what I know is that the longer they are out of runs the closer they are to coming good again. That puts a big smile on my face. I am sure he is going to work things out. He is a great problem solver. I am looking forward to watching him bat in this Test and the next one,” the former Aussie opener said during an interaction on Tuesday.
Smith admitted during the MCG Test last week that he has allowed R Ashwin to dictate terms to him. “I’ve sort of let him dictate terms and that’s something I’ve probably never let any spinner do in my career. At the moment, I’m searching for time in the middle; that’s the most important thing for me,” he told an Australian radio channel.
If Smith does manage to find time in the middle and get going in Sydney, the Indian bowlers might be forced to rejig their plans for the first time in this series.