Steve Smith reinvented his batting after 2019 Ashes
For Smith, the sweet spot of his career was the summer of 2014-15, when he dominated India and was the fulcrum of Australia’s ODI World Cup win on home soil. At the time, he was known to confide “no one knows how to get me out”, and batted like it.
But from 2019, it took until a session in Adelaide – just before Australia would be eliminated from the Twenty20 World Cup – for all the components of feet, hands and weight transfer to get into sync. Smith’s first attempt to demonstrate the changes was derailed by COVID-19, which he carried into the game against Afghanistan.
“I’ve looked at footage for so long like you wouldn’t believe, just of innings mainly in 2015,” he said. “I think that was when I was batting my best in the Indian series at home and throughout that World Cup and that’s my blueprint that I always go back to, to try and figure out what I was doing there.
“I finally got there. I was in the nets. I think in might have been in Adelaide just before the T20 game against Afghanistan. I felt like I’d found something and then I got COVID.
“I played with COVID that game and I didn’t really get a chance to get in the middle to sort of implement it. And then the next game I played was against England and that game I think, I scored 80 not out.
“And yeah, that was just the first time I’d put it all into practice in the middle and it just clicked for me. We’re always looking for those things to make you better. Fortunate that I stumbled across it finally and hopefully, it keeps working well for me.”
Smith narrowed things down to a single moment, a single shot – a well-publicised cover drive in Adelaide, where he mouthed the words “I’m back, baby”. He certainly was – across 16 innings in all formats since, Smith has hammered 1027 runs at 85.58 with four centuries.
“It was probably that ball that I hit through the covers, just my weight transfer through the ball,” he said. “The way my hands went through it and I’d felt it a little bit in the nets but I hadn’t implemented it in the game yet.
“So as soon as I hit that shot I was kind of like, I’ve just found something has clicked. It’s the rhythm I’ve been searching for and yeah, I made it pretty clear, I think straight away. So yeah, a bold statement but it felt as though it, you know, I’d nailed it.”
This is all very useful so far as Australia is concerned in 2023. Smith goes to India and then to England with full confidence in his game and ability to stay a step or two ahead of bowlers, whether they be spinners on turning tracks or fast men on seaming ones.
“I think some subcontinent wickets suit the style of play that I have,” Smith said of India. “I really enjoy playing on those spinning tracks there, so much fun and there’s always something happening.
“But you know, if they’re not the spinning ones and they’re a bit flatter there, the ones where you can really cash in and you have to make big, big scores. I think that’s certainly one thing that I’ll be telling the boys when we get over there.
“That’s one of my experiences that I’ve had, and you can only play according to the surface that’s in front of you.”