Hands on: Steve Smith feeling ready to take on India

SYDNEY (AP) — Steve Smith spent extra time in the nets in quarantine and reckons it has helped him rediscover his peak technique in time to face India.

The former Australia test captain had a disappointing run in the Twenty20 format of the Indian Premier League. An enforced break has been just the thing.

“The past few days I have found something ... I have found my hands, which I am extremely excited about,” Smith told an online video conference Tuesday. “It’s taken me about three-and-a-half or four months to do it .... a lot longer than usual.”

He said the delay getting it right maybe was because he didn't bat for months because of the lockdown for COVID-19, which shuttered international sports in March

Australia will face an almost full-strength India in three one-day and three Twenty20 internationals starting Friday before a four-match test series, which is scheduled to start with a day-night match in Adelaide on Dec. 17.

Smith said he's had the feeling before, attributing his stellar form in the 2017-18 Ashes series, when he averaged 137.40, to finding the perfect batting balance with his hands.

“Theoretically it is a simple thing,” Smith said. “It’s just getting that feel of the bat behind my toe the right way, the way my hands come up the bat, it’s hard to explain. But it just hasn’t quite been right until two days ago. I found a little something and everything just clicked in.

“It changes where you meet the ball, so you hit it in different places."

He said tiny things could make a big difference with rhythm, and conceded he had a “big smile on my face” after practice on Sunday when he let the team coaches know "‘I found them again.”

Smith had to quarantine on return to Australia earlier this month following a trip to England and the IPL, which was held in the United Arab Emirates.

Smith averages 69.41 against India in all formats. He missed India's last tour Down Under because he was banned for his part in a ball-tampering scandal during a test in South Africa earlier in the year.

Virat Kolhi's lineup took advantage of the turmoil in Australian cricket in 2018-19, becoming the first from India to win a test series Down Under.

Kohli, who rivals Smith at the top of the international batting rankings, will play in the shorter format and the first test before returning to India to be with his wife for the birth of their first child in January.

Smith is determined to play a big role this time.

“In big series I try and stand up and get the best out of myself, whether it be an Ashes or India series,” Smith said. “Whether there is something more inside me that comes out, I’m not sure.”

There's been speculation an India attack led by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will bowl short to Smith, trying to extract the extra bounce in the Australian wickets and replicate the pressure New Zealand left-arm medium pacer Neil Wagner put on him last year.

“If others want to take that type of approach, then great,” Smith said. “In a way it’s a bit of flattery if people believe that is the only way they can get me out because they have exhausted so many more options.

“It gives me a lot of confidence to know that.”

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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