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Smith looking to take home great memories from challenging six weeks

Source: PTI
Last updated on: February 14, 2017 16:49 IST
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'Captaincy in India is about knowing the right period -- when to take the foot off the pedal and when to attack. I think I learnt that in Sri Lanka'

India and Virat Kohli have been on a roll, with the team going unbeaten in the last 19 Tests and the Indian captain scoring at will, but Australia have devised plan to stop both captain and team in hope to have a successful series

Australia captain Steve Smith arrives at the international airport in Mumbai on Monday

IMAGE: Australia captain Steve Smith arrives at the international airport in Mumbai on Monday. Photograph: Santosh Hirlekar/PTI

Aware of the stiff challenge awaiting them in the upcoming Test series, Australia captain Steve Smith said winning in India will go down as the 'best time of life' for the players of his team.

India and Australia will engage in a four-Test series, beginning in Pune from February 23.

"It's a great challenge to play here in India. We know if we can pull something off and win a series here, we can look back at it in 10-20 years as some of the best times in our life. It's a great occasion to play here in India," said Smith at his first media conference after arriving in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Australia, who are yet to win a Test in India since upsetting the hosts 2-1 in the best-of-three rubber way back in 2004-05, will commence their tour with a three-day warm-up game against an India A squad in Mumbai.

"This is going to be a difficult tour and I am excited by that challenge. All of us are excited about what's to come in the next six weeks," said the 27-year-old Smith.

Smith, a regular in the Indian Premier League, is not new to Indian conditions but will be wary of Team India, who have not lost a Test series at home since losing to England in 2012 and have recorded comprehensive wins over Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and England.

Australian cricket captain Steve Smith speaks as coach Darren Lehmann listens in at a news conference in Mumbai on Tuesday

IMAGE: Australian cricket captain Steve Smith and coach Darren Lehmann said at a news conference in Mumbai on Tuesday that the team has prepared well and are raring to go. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Team coach Darren Lehmann concurred with Smith about the difficulties of taking on India at home.

"The preparations have been good. It's an exciting tour and India are a quality side with some quality fast bowlers along with spinners. They have not lost in 20 Test matches at home and we know they are a quality side. It's a great challenge," said Lehmann.

Australia had trained for some time in Dubai before reaching Mumbai on Monday, and Smith said they had tried to play in conditions similar to what they will experience here.

"Boys have been in Dubai for some time now preparing on good wickets, challenging themselves. We have prepared very well and are ready to go," he said.

"We are excited about the tour and know it's going to be difficult. India are a very good team, particularly in home conditions. There's a tour match (from February 17-19 at CCI). All the boys have been working hard, formulating good game-plans and hopefully will have a successful series," he added.

Smith said the Aussies are working hard to come up with ways to stop the incredible run-spree of India skipper Virat Kohli.

India captain VIrat Kohli has been in top form going into the Australia series

IMAGE: India captain VIrat Kohli has been in top form going into the Australia series. Photograph: BCCI

"We are trying to form a game plan but I am not telling you, he's a world class player and has been batting very well. He's scored four double centuries in the last four series. He's a big player for India along with the others. They have a strong top six and hopefully we can stop them," he said.

Kohli's phenomenal form with the bat has seen him score 1,457 runs in 13 Tests going back to India's tour of the West Indies last year at an average of a shade over 80 per innings. Smith said his batsmen will do well to have a good mix of offence and defence as the situation demanded.

"Batting in Test cricket is about making good decisions and doing it for long periods of time. In Dubai, the balls were turning and there was uneven bounce too. The boys have got game plans. They have worked hard to find what works for them. Now it's about implementing them and doing that for long periods of time," he said.

"We don't want to change their natural game as it's important to be positive and look to score. The moment you start defending then you are in trouble. But it's important to defend too as ultimately defence helps you in trouble.

Ravichandran Ashwin snaps Dennis Lillee's record by becoming the quickest bowler to claim 250 wickets in Test cricket during the just concluded one-off Test against Bangladesh

IMAGE: Ravichandran Ashwin snaps Dennis Lillee's record by becoming the quickest bowler to claim 250 wickets in Test cricket during the just concluded one-off Test against Bangladesh. Photograph: BCCI

"They (India) have some great fast bowlers too apart from spin bowlers who can bowl well with the new ball and also reverse the old. Defence is going to be incredibly important for us with the bat," he said.

India’s spin twins, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, are expected to be a major threat to their aspirations.

Conceding Ashwin to be a major threat, Smith said they have formulated game plans to counter the premier Indian spinner who became the fastest to reach 250 wickets in Test cricket during the 208-run win over Bangladesh in Hyderabad in the one-off game that ended yesterday.

"Look all our batters will have game plans to try and counter him. He's a world class bowler and among the fastest to complete 250 Test wickets just a couple of days ago. We know he's going to be difficult to face, but guys are going to formulate plans and hopefully they are going to get him out of the game as much as possible."

Steve Smith expects Josh Hazlewood to get some assistance from the pitch with the reverse swing

IMAGE: Steve Smith expects Josh Hazlewood to get some assistance from the pitch with the reverse swing. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

To help the Aussies tackle the spin threat in India, CA have roped in former Tamil Nadu spinner Sridharan Sriram and ex-England left arm spinner Monty Panesar.

But Lehmann also spoke of being wary about India’s ‘quality fast bowlers’ too.

About his team's bowling attack, Smith was happy it has the right mix.

"The guys have been working hard and learning to adapt to ways to bowl in these conditions. It's totally different to back home in Australia.

"It's important here to make sure you bowl in consistent areas and learn to use natural variations in the wickets. It's a big series and hopefully the guys can build up enough pressure, get balls in the right areas and get rewards," he said.

"Reverse swing is incredibly important. Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc are very good reverse swing bowlers. Starc is a big player for us. We saw how well he did on slow wickets in Sri Lanka, with reverse swing and new ball as well. No doubt he's a dangerous player for us.

"India have some incredibly good batters and they (bowlers) are very excited about the challenge," he added.

Australian captain Steve Smith hoping to keep things tight and the result in his favour

IMAGE: Australian captain Steve Smith hoping to keep things tight and the result in his favour. Photograph: Getty Images

Smith, who has taken over the mantle of captaincy from Michael Clarke, said he was slowly learning the intricacies of the job and the stint in Sri Lanka last year, where they were blanked 3-0, helped him in this endeavour.

"For me it's about understanding different times in the game to attack or defend, to try and keep things tight and when you get a sniff, go for it. Captaincy in India is about knowing the right period -- when to take the foot off the pedal and when to attack. I think I learnt that in Sri Lanka.

"I have learnt a fair bit on the way. You probably learn more from losing than in winning. It has been a roller-coaster ride last year with regards to the result. This team has come a long way," he said.

"Obviously I have played there quite a bit and I know that place quite well, although I have not played a Test match. It's going to be different. Still it will be quite nice to get out there and hopefully I can spend a lot more time in the middle out there," he said about the opening game in Pune which is hosting the first-ever Test.

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