Smith keen to grab his chance

Steven Smith doesn’t have fond memories of the Punjab Cricket Association stadium here. That might change depending on how his first Test appearance in India pans out when the third Test commences here.

The New South Wales all-rounder was the 12th man in the previous Test between India and Australia at this venue in October 2010 and his overthrows during a tense chase, orchestrated by VVS Laxman, proved costly for the visiting team. Australia lost the Test by one wicket.

“Yeah, I know it was a little different the last time I was here,” recalled Smith after being included in the side for the third Test though the opening day’s play was called off due to rain and damp conditions on Thursday. “(I) came on as a 12th man and had three-four (runs) overthrows at the end of the game and we ended up losing the match. Yeah, it’s a little bit more exciting being part of the 11 (this time). Hopefully we will get some play tomorrow and I am looking forward to it.”

Regarded as the best spinner to have emerged after the great Shane Warne, the 23-year-old has featured in just five Tests in his stuttering career with modest returns. Three wickets at an average of 73.33 and with a strike rate of 124 balls for each wicket, hardly justify the big comparison he had drawn with Warne so far as bowling is concerned. His batting, though, has been in better shape and the Sydney-born player gets his latest break as a specialist batsman.

“I have been training hard this tour,” he said. “I think I have improved a lot (as a batsman) in the last 12-18 months. I changed a couple of things in my technique that have made me a bit more stable at the crease, more balanced and I guess more selective as well. I feel as though I am tightening my technique quite a bit. I feel like I am playing spin really well on this trip in the nets. I am looking forward to going out there in the middle and having a crack and hopefully I will be successful,” Smith explained.

 Elaborating further on his ways to tackle the spin threat, Smith said he had employed some ‘different’ methods to polish his skills. “At the nets I have played spin a lot in the last couple of weeks. I have been working on different methods and different ways to controlling the play against spin, and hopefully the methods I have come up with will be successful in these conditions. It’s always going to be tough playing against quality spinners in these conditions but I feel as if I am up for the challenge.”

 Maintaining that he has always been more of a batsman than a bowler, Smith pointed out that he has been concentrating more on his batting in the last few months or so. “In New South Wales you have got Steven O’Keefe, and you have Adam Zampa, a leg-spinner coming through and he is a very talented bowler as well.

I had to do hell of a lot of bowling to do in the last year or two. It’s still something that I work on hard in the nets, it’s always a good string to have for your bow. This game, obviously the wicket looks pretty dry, so there could be a few chances to reel out a few leggies in the second innings if there’s a rough. I have been working hard and hopefully it will come off well,” he offered.

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