Can’t sit down for too long, says Smith about his stiff back

Australia top-order batsman Steve Smith on Tuesday revealed that he is still struggling with a stiff back, that he had feared would keep him out of the first Test against India. The former Australia captain said he is struggling to sit for long, although he hopes to get fit by the time the second Test begins 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 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 do…so 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.

The right-handed batsman is looking forward to the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he has an exceptional batting average. As compared to his career average of 62.31, Smith’s average in the seven Tests he has played at the MCG, since his debut in 2010, is 113.5 with four centuries. He played one Test against India at the venue, in 2014, and scored 192.

“10 years…it 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.

“You have the crowd yelling. It is a sort of dream come true. As a kid I always wanted to play in a Boxing Day Test match. I always remember watching the Boxing Day Test at home with the family after Christmas and to walk out on the Boxing Day and play, you sort of get the shivers down the spine and hair on the back raise up and it is just a great feeling,” he added.

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 number one ranked Test batsman, who has scored over 7,000 runs in the longest format of the game, said his team-mate 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,” said Smith.

The former Australia skipper praised Tim Paine for his batting saying, “He (Paine) is another one (like Joe Burns) who will take a lot of confidence with the way he played the other day. He took the game on. He was scoring at a good rate and changed the momentum of the game. We have always known Tim to have such good ability with the bat. And I think he is just getting better. I think if he can keep having those performances and change the momentum, that is part of his job as selected No. 7 as wicketkeeper…”

Paine had said he took help from Labuschagne ahead of the first Test. Smith felt the wicketkeeper-batsman loves to make adjustments to his batting.

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