Time in the middle and not time at home is what out-of-sorts Australian batting gun Steve Smith wants after a double MCG failure continued a worrying form slump.
Smith, who has been trapped in various quarantine bubbles since August, conceded that lengthy stints in those environments could “have an impact” on the mental health of players.
But he wouldn’t use it an excuse for his run of single-figure scores in the Test series.
The 31-year-old has not seen his wife, Dani, face-to-face in more than four months and had hopes of a reunion in Melbourne dashed by the NSW COVID outbreak.
“It‘s a good stint away and those things can certainly have an impact on people’s mental health and preparation and all things like that,” Smith said on Tuesday.
“I‘m not making any excuses by any stretch of the imagination.
“It‘s certainly very different times at the moment and you’ve got to be able to adapt.”
Smith, named the ICC‘s Test player of the decade, has averaged just 26.40 since his superhuman effort in the 2019 Ashes – well down on his average of 61.33 throughout his glittering career.
He has scored just 10 runs in four innings this series against India, including an opening day duck at the MCG where he averaged 113.50 in seven previous Tests.
But more than runs, Smith said he wanted time in the middle to find the “rhythm” he’s lacked this series, with 64 balls, in each of those ODI hundreds, his longest stay at the crease this summer.
“At the moment I‘m searching for time in the middle; that’s the most important thing for me,“ Smith told SEN.
“When I look at this year, 64 balls is the longest I‘ve spent in the middle during those one-day games.
“For me, that‘s important. I find a lot of rhythm out in the middle.
“You can bat as much as you want in the nets, but there‘s nothing that can replicate what a game can do, so that for me is what I’m searching for at the moment.
“That can be tough to do, particularly in a Test match when you‘ve got some quality bowlers.”
Smith, who has twice been dismissed by Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, said he needed to be more assertive and would be when the third Test begins.
“I probably haven‘t played Ashwin as well as I would’ve liked; I probably would’ve liked to have put him under a bit more pressure,” Smith said.
“I‘ve sort of let him dictate terms and that’s something I’ve probably never let any spinner do in my career.
“I‘ve sort of taken it to them, been a bit more aggressive and made them change things.
“It‘s kind of a two-edged sword in a way, but I think I’ve just got to have the confidence to take it on and play my game.”