Steven Smith on Nic Maddinson: ‘I think on his day he can tear any attack apart’ © Getty Images
Australia’s captain Steven Smith is staking plenty on his ability to get the best out of the New South Wales left-hand batsman Nic Maddinson, as a potential match-winner among the raft of changes made to the team for the day-night Test at Adelaide Oval.
No name among the five to be included for Thursday – the others are Matt Renshaw, Pete Handscomb, Matthew Wade and Jackson Bird – stands out quite like that of Maddinson as an indicator that this is now very much Smith’s team.
On the face of it, his selection at No. 6 runs contrary to the team’s desperate need for batsmen capable of playing a long innings and toughing it out during the difficult periods that have so wrecked Smith’s chances of emerging as the winning captain across the past five Tests.
However Smith believes he has seen welcome signs of evolution in Maddinson’s methods over the past 12 months, backing a state team-mate he has known for many years to step up to the plate. In this there are distinct shades of Ricky Ponting’s faith in another destructive middle order performer – Andrew Symonds.
“I think on his day he can tear any attack apart,” Smith said of Maddinson. “I think the selectors have given him an opportunity to come in and play at No. 6, and I guess sum up the conditions and play with a bit of freedom at the same time.
“I think he has developed his defence over the last couple of years, from what I have seen he has been playing the ball a lot later and a lot more under his eyes, which is a very good start. From there he has certainly got the shots to expand his game, so he’s going to continue to work hard and hopefully he can flourish in this system.”
Australia captain Steven Smith
The system Smith spoke of has been under serious strain over the past week, as evidenced by the resignation of the selection chairman Rod Marsh and the five changes that have been made to the Test team. Smith said he sensed a change in mood simply through the high turnover of players from Hobart to Adelaide.
“We’ve obviously made a lot of changes and some young guys have come into the squad,” Smith said. “I think it’s obviously this series has been disappointing the way it has gone for us. But I’m actually really excited now about the young guys coming into the group and what they bring.
“I’ve almost felt a little shift over the last couple of days in attitude and energy from what the new guys have brought in. I’m happy with the team that we’ve got, and I’m excited about all these young guys coming into the group and what they can bring to the team.”
Smith has acknowledged that the players under his command must show a better ability to identify key moments in matches, particularly with the bat. “I think the focus is more around attitude and being able to be more resilient and adaptable to whatever conditions that are out there and identifying periods of the game that are difficult and getting through those periods,” he said.
“I think recently we have struggled to identify the periods that are difficult and we have talked about them afterwards where there were moments where we could have done things better. It’s about trying to stay in the moment and identify those periods and get through those periods and when you do that things get easier.”
Similarly, Australia’s players are now hoping that the difficult period experienced over the past week will be identified by the selectors and other senior Cricket Australia figures as a time to aim for continuity. “It’s a difficult one,” Smith said. “You want guys to come in and perform and keep putting in those performances and be consistent. I think it’s a great opportunity to try and get a little bit of continuity with our team and try to make guys feel as comfortable as they can.
“I know when you feel comfortable and relaxed that’s the way you play your best cricket. It’s trying to get that feeling among the group, and make our mindsets right. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to stamp my authority on this team as the leader. I have talked a lot to the guys over the last couple of days about growth and trying to grow and learn as a team.
“Growth doesn’t happen overnight, so it could take some time, but I am confident that with the guys we have here that we can start turning our results around straightaway and start playing the way we want to play.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo