Australian captain Steve Smith will ditch his favoured No 4 spot in the first Test match against India to enter the field one position earlier.
Australia are set to take on India in the first Test match of the series at Pune’s MCA stadium beginning Thursday and Smith revealed plans to restructure their approach to the match.
The visitors are currently lined up with three left-handed batters in their top-three order and Smith may shuffle the pack in order to break the southpaw sequence and make it difficult for India’s bowlers to pick them off.
“It depends on what make up of team we go with. Probably a good chance I’ll be at three if we do have the three left-handers, just to break it up a bit. Good chance I will be at three but it’ll depend on the make-up of the team,” Smith was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au when asked where he will bat in the first Test.
Smith has experience in batting at No 3 as well as No 4, however it is in the latter role where he has been more effective.
He boasts a remarkable average of 77.65 and nine centuries from 28 innings batting at No 4. Three of those centuries had come against India.
At No. 3, he has played 20 innings at a batting average of 66.22 and five centuries.
Australia’s top order is likely to field openers David Warner and Shaun Marsh followed by either one of Matt Renshaw or Usman Khawaja. All four batters are left-handed which Smith is wary may play into the hands of Ravichandran Ashwin, India’s star off-spinner.
Ashwin, currently the world’s top-ranked Test bowler, has been in marvelous form at home where he has picked up 61 scalps from nine Test matches.
While the offie has a better average against right-handed batters (22.44) than left-handers (23.83), he has enjoyed more wicket success against southpaws. Ashwin has dismissed left-handers 135 times and right-handers 119 times.
Furthermore, Ashwin’s success against righties will have Smith nervous since he is considered the best player to take on spin bowling among the baggy greens.
Having played alongside Ashwin at Rising Pune Supergiants in IPL 2016 will do him no favours as they off-spinner only bowled him leg-spin deliveries in the nets so as not to give away any trademarks or secrets.
With the pitch expected to favour spinners, Smith might find it hard dealing with Aswhin’s deliveries come match day.
“I know [Ashwin] is a quality bowler. He’s got great skills. He presents different seam positions for what the wicket entails. He’s a class bowler and he’s very accurate the way he bowls, and he hits the right areas consistently. So guys have plans in place to play him, now it’s about being able to implement those plans under pressure in the heat of the moment. Hopefully we can counteract what he brings at us,” Smith said.