World No.1 batsman Steve Smith is desperately chasing rhythm from more time in the middle as he seeks to drag himself out of a worrying form slump in the Test arena.
Smith, named this week as the ICC’s Test player of the decade, has averaged just 26.40 with the bat for Australia since his superhuman effort in the 2019 Ashes – well down on his average of 61.33 throughout his glittering career.
The quirky right-hander blasted two hundreds in the three-match ODI series against India this summer but has managed just 10 runs at 3.33 during the first two Test matches.
He made a duck and eight in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG – where he had averaged a mind-boggling 113.50 in seven previous Tests.
“At the moment I’m searching for time in the middle; that’s the most important thing for me,” Smith told SEN on Tuesday.
“When I look at this year, 64 balls is the longest I’ve spent in the middle, during those one-day games.
“For me, that’s important. I find a lot of rhythm out in the middle.
“You can bat as much as you want in the nets but there’s nothing that can replicate what a game can do, so that for me is what I’m searching for at the moment.
“That can be tough to do, particularly in a Test match when you’ve got some quality bowlers.”
Smith has twice been dismissed by offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin during the Test series and was bowled by Jasprit Bumrah, as he walked across his stumps in the second dig in Melbourne.
“I probably haven’t played Ashwin as well as I would’ve liked; I probably would’ve liked to have put him under a bit more pressure,” Smith said.
“I’ve sort of let him dictate terms and that’s something I’ve probably never let any spinner do in my career.
“I’ve sort of taken it to them, been a bit more aggressive and made them change things.
“I haven’t allowed that to happen, probably because I’m searching for just being out there for long enough.
“It’s kind of a two-edged sword in a way, but I think I’ve just got to have the confidence to take it on and play my game.”
Smith admitted he has found aspects of hub life difficult this year but won’t use it as an excuse for his dip in form.
The 31-year-old has not seen his wife, Dani, in more than four months, having been in biosecurity bubbles on cricket duty in England, the UAE and Australia since August.
“It’s a good stint away and those things can certainly have an impact on people’s mental health and preparation and all things like that,” Smith said.
“I’m not making any excuses by any stretch of the imagination.
“It’s certainly very different times at the moment and you’ve got to be able to adapt.”