Australia's Steve Smith
Steve Smith, a pillar of Australian batting, is facing a race against time to be fit for the Boxing Day Test against India. Image Credit: Reuters

Kolkata: The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) had been a happy hunting one for Steve Smith, the former Australian captain who boasts of a staggering average of 113.5 in the seven Tests he has played there since his debut in 2010. However, a stiff back is threatening to scupper his plans of keeping the good work going against India in the Boxing Day Test - beginning on Saturday.

“I just can’t sit down for too long really. If I am up and about and moving around, I am pretty good. If I sit down, I am pretty stiff after this press conference. If I am moving around or lying down then good. If I sit around for too long then it is not great for it. So I am not worried. Everything will be fine. It will be good to go,” Smith told reporters in a virtual chat on Tuesday.


“Well, initially when I did (have stiff back), I did have some fears (of missing the first Test). But I have had a few back issues in the past and they are generally 2-3 day things where I do a lot of physiotherapy, get myself into extension. Generally when I it is just having someone like physio to push in my back and getting the extension and trying to get that range back. It is still a bit stiff but it didn’t hamper me throughout the game. It was all good. It is something I have to manage whenever it does. I haven’t had an episode since 2014. Hopefully, they can be six years apart if they come,” he added.

After skittling out India to their all-time low score of 36 at Adelaide, the hosts will be looking not to take their foot off the pedal as they are expected to get back David Warner (who missed the first Test due to an injury) back at the MCG.

It will, however, be a sad miss for Smith if he cannot make it for the second Test at a venue where he has four of his centuries - including a big one (192) which he scored against India the only time he has played them at the hallowed turf in 201.

Marnus Labuschagne
Marnus Labuschagne, who had an outstanding year since his debut in 2019 Ashes, will have to learn to adapt to the opposition's plans, feels Smith. Image Credit: AP

“10 is hard to believe. But it has been a while since then. I have grown as a player over that time and as you said my Boxing Day record has been the best of all the grounds in Australia. I like batting at the MCG. On big occasions, I try to make the most of them and help the team out. There is nothing like the sort of thrill or I guess you get the shivers down the spine when you walk out to bat on the Boxing Day,” said the 31-year-old.

Smith further hoped that Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) will be able to host the (third) Test match after doubts emerge over the past week over its ability to host due to a new Covid-19 cluster in New South Wales.

“I think everyone’s preference here would be to play in Sydney. We will obviously be guided by experts from our medical staff, the government and everything. We will wait and see what happens there. I guess we will cross that bridge when we need it... Personally I would love Sydney to happen. It is my home ground. I guess we just wait and see, and be guided by the experts.”

The world No.1 ranked Test batsman, who has scored over 7,000 runs in the longest format of the game, said his teammate Marnus Labuschagne will have to learn “on the fly” as after his breakout season - in 2019-20 in Australia saw him score 1,078 runs in nine Tests with four centuries at an average of 77.

Smith admitted that the big challenge for Labuschagne would be if he has got exposed to the opposition.

“I think you have to take confidence out of what you have done. So for Marnus for instance, taking the positives out of what he did last year. He batted exceptionally last year. He batted for long periods of time, had really good plans. He was able to adapt at times to what was thrown at him. So again it is being able to adapt on the fly and understand how the bowlers are trying to get you out and how they are trying to contain you and coming up with plans to counter that and I think obviously Marnus had such amazing year last year and people have seen more of him and how he plays. I think it is going to be for him to be able to understand on the fly of what’s going on. How they are trying to go about it. That is one thing Marnus will do really well. He has got a really good cricket brain and he really knows how he is going to play. I am sure he will adapt to what is thrown at him,” added Smith.