HomeAnalysis#IndiaInAustralia: How much of a loss is Smith and...

#IndiaInAustralia: How much of a loss is Smith and Warner for the hosts?

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The biggest talking point from the overall cricket’s point of view is the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner for the upcoming Test series against India at home starting December 6. When one turns the pages back four years ago to the 2014-15 series, the duo played a crucial role in decimating India. Now the Aussies have definitely been weakened as a unit with their absence.
India have gained a bit of advantage especially going into the first Test with two of Australia’s most successful Test batsmen missing from the line-up. The duo are serving a 12-month ban following a ball-tampering scandal against South Africa earlier this year.
Smith was the best batsman in the world not so long ago and endured a successful 2017-18 Ashes series where he once again found his bat to do the talking. Warner also chipped in time and time again with valuable knocks upfront.
As Sourav Ganguly pointed out a couple of days back that not having the two premier batsmen means he it is equivalent to India not having Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in their ranks. Smith and Warner will not play Test cricket before March 29 when the ban on them ends.
India still need to stick to their plans given that the Aussies are still superior at their own backyard. Also India lost two big series outside the subcontinent this year against South Africa and England to highlight they have issues at large away from home. Altogether one may feel that it could be closely fought this time, especially with run-machine Smith not there to provide the heartaches.
So how much of a loss are the duo for the hosts? Let’s find out.

Smith, Warner stole the show in the 2014-15

In the 2014-15 series when India toured Australia, the flamboyant Smith was in commanding form and helped his side thrash the visitors. Aussies ran 2-0 winners in the 4-match series. And the man of the moment was Smith.

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He amassed 769 runs in 4 Tests at an average of 128.16. With 4 hundreds and 2 fifties, Smith batted like a rock. Warner was not far behind and was Australia’s second highest run-scorer with 427. He had smashed 3 tons to play a crucial role.

What bode well for the duo was that both started strongly in the series and hit tons in the first innings of the first Test itself. That gave them the confidence to go forward and play at will targeting the Indian bowlers, who often ran short of ideas.

Smith a lion on home soil

Smith can definitely be termed as a lion at home and his impact in the 2017-18 Ashes was tremendous.

How brilliant was the player who scored 687 runs with 3 hundreds to his name. He was in a dream phase and there were comparisons with Sir Donald Bradman. Once again he led from the front and kept pulling Aussies out from position of bother to convert starts into majestic hundreds.

And once again it was a dream start right in the first Test itself at Brisbane. Smith scored a match-winning knock (141*) and there was no stopping him. The 239 in Perth was perhaps one of his best ever Test knocks. It was a magical experience watching the player go on and on.
Question roused back then that how does a bowler stop him? He was dismissed below 10, only once during this series and returned with two unbeaten centuries.
The English bowlers during the Ashes had come with a plan to get him out early, but each time Smith defied them to keep scoring big runs and leave them gasping in the end.

In that series, even Warner chipped in with 441 runs. Another crucial contribution from the southpaw.

Smith at home Matches Runs Average Best 100
29 3,090 77.25 239 13

What makes Smith so different?

Smith’s consistency was unmatchable

Smith’s compatriots in the ‘Fab Four’ play more on the front foot, but Smith is a king of the back foot. Many bowlers tend to attack him on the stumps with the wickets exposed when he bats. But the angle of his bat is so perfect that it helps him play the ball without any fuss. Smith bats with both his feet very close to each other. That was the success he enjoyed.
What was seen in the 2017-18 Ashes, is that he exposes his off and middle stump and just as the ball is being delivered, he shuffles across. Most often his back foot is covering the off stump when the ball is released. The world No.2 knows where his off stump is and that has been a reason for his precise shot selection. Every time one watches him, there is a feeling that he always has a lot of time.
One will definitely miss the battle between Smith and the current Indian pace attack.

Who will Aussies look up to?

Aaron Finch would look to establish himself in the longer format

Australia have a new look opening set-up and the experience of Warner will sorely be missed. The aggressive southpaw’s 6k-plus runs in Tests is a testament to his achievements. In Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja, Aussies have two strong minded players, but it will be a lot to ask for the duo.
Also their middle order looks a bit weak. Therefore like coach Justin Langer, one can throw his support behind veteran Shaun Marsh and his brother Mitchell to carry the burden of work. Shaun can fight it out and bat for long hours. Mitch can come in and change the look of the game.
After a horror tour of the UAE, the older Marsh brother has returned to form with an impressive return to the JLT Sheffield Shield and a one-day hundred against South Africa to seemingly secure his spot for the next month’s Test Series against India.
He scored 14 runs in four innings against Pakistan. But like Shaun, Mitchell has responded in style, scoring 151 in the Shield last week and Langer said the all-rounder needed to simply focus on his task on the field.
“They’re both very talented players and both very good young men so let’s just hope they continue their good form and we see a lot more of them,” said Langer to TAB Radio.

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