Steve Smith's confession about 'difficult' dynamic with Pat Cummins
With Pat Cummins absent, Steve Smith has noticed something about their on-field relationship in India.
Steve Smith has repeatedly knocked suggestions he could or even should make a return to captaining Australia full-time after the third Test victory in Indore, but has conceded Indian conditions made for a more difficult challenge for the side in the first two Tests under Pat Cummins. After the first two matches of the season, Smith stepped in to substitute as skipper while Cummins returned home for family reasons.
Australia romped home to victory in a stunning third Test, reigniting hopes of levelling the series after dreams of a long-awaited series victory on India soil were quickly dashed. While the Australian captaincy is all but certain to remain with Cummins for the foreseeable future, Smith offered a unique insight into what had changed in Cummins' absence.
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The debate around the captaincy came as something of a surprise to some, after Cummins lead the team through an undefeated home Test summer against the West Indies and South Africa. Taking on India at home through, has proven to be an entirely different challenge.
Part of that challenge, Smith said, was the fact that the increased over rate thanks to the significantly heavier dependence on spin made making tweaks on the fly much more difficult. Even when Cummins plays, Smith plays a prominent role in setting the field.
With pace bowling dominant in Australia, Smith said it was easier to consult with Cummins between deliveries and overs. It's different in India, with Smith admitting the ability to handle minor field tweaks between balls himself was a major benefit.
“It’s probably more difficult here than in Australia ... there you can change something at the end of an over ... you have a bit more time,” Smith said. “Whereas here, when I see something, it almost has to happen straight away because of the way the game is played; there is so much on each ball.
“So it’s difficult from that aspect, but I just try and make as many suggestions as I feel when I have a gut feeling. I feel like I understand these conditions well, but it’s definitely harder to communicate. I’m fielding at slip generally, Patty’s at mid-off – I can make hand gestures and things like that, but it’s not as easy as you’d like.
"So, that can be difficult. But ultimately, my job is to make things as easy as possible and help in any way that I can.”
Aussies unchanged for crucial fourth Test in India
After securing a famous nine-wicket triumph in Indore last week, Australia opted to go with the same team in the ground named after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The toss of the coin was delayed by four minutes to accommodate an extravagant political meeting between Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Both leaders did a lap of honour in a hovercraft with bats and stumps on the back of it as they celebrated "75 years of friendship through cricket". When the toss finally went ahead, Smith called correctly and elected to bat first.
India will be desperate to bounce back from losing in Indore and seal their spot in the World Test Championship final with a 3-1 series win. If the hosts do make the WTC decider, they will meet Australia at The Oval in London in June after the tourists secured their place last week.
Australia have won just two of their last 17 Tests in India since 2004, but enter the match having only performed better the longer the tour has gone.
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