BBC SPORT – With just under a month before the start of the first Ashes Test, BBC World Service spoke to Australia captain Steve Smith about various aspects of the forthcoming series.
In an interview with commentator Jim Maxwell for Stumped, the 28-year-old discusses England potentially being without all-rounder Ben Stokes, the tourists’ strengths, Australia’s “loose cannon” David Warner and captaining in an Ashes series for the first time.
If Ben Stokes doesn’t turn up, how much of a plus is that for Australia?
“He’s an incredible player with both ball and bat. He’s one of the best in the world. You want to come up against the best in an Ashes series, but his situation is out of our control. We will do what we can to win the series and prepare for the series as well as we can.”
What are England’s strengths?
“You know they have a really good side, they are quite experienced now. With regards to their batting, Alastair Cook and Joe Root are their two big players that we need to keep quiet. James Anderson and Stuart Broad are experienced – they have been here a few times so they know what to expect. We need to get those guys bowling a lot of overs – if we do that, hopefully we’ll have some success.”
Anderson, England’s record wicket-taker, how highly do you rate him?
“If you look at 2010, he was quite successful here with the Kookaburra ball, but probably not as successful the last time he came. Hopefully we can replicate what we did in 2013. We kept him quiet with regards to wickets and got him bowling a lot of overs. If we are doing that, then we are scoring a lot of runs and hopefully we can do it this summer.”
What about England’s middle order?
“I think Jonny Bairstow has improved a lot, Dawid Malan and other guys have come in and played. I’m not entirely sure what order they will go with. Mark Stoneman will probably be at the top. They do have inexperienced players coming to Australia – hopefully they won’t be equipped for the fast and bouncy tracks compared to England and we can exploit them a little bit.”
Did your vice-captain David Warner go too far with the “hatred” and “war” comments?
“From my point of view, it’s about getting into a contest and doing everything we can to win the game. It shouldn’t be too hard to get up for an Ashes series – you are playing for your country so, for me, it’s ensuring we get into a contest.”
Is Warner a loose cannon?
“No, David is great when he is in those kind of moods, when he is up and about. That’s what you want to see from your opening batsman – he’s fiery, he plays his best cricket when he is in that mindset, so hopefully he can score some big runs for us.”
This is your first Ashes series as captain, is it the biggest challenge of your career?
“Yeah, it will be up there – the much-anticipated series, the rivalry with England is always there. This is my fifth Ashes series, but my first as captain and I can’t wait to get out there. It’s an exciting series to be involved in.”
What was the secret from going from leg-spinning number eight “with more moving parts than an orchestra” to being one of best batsmen in the world?
“Finding the right game to suit me and to be successful at the next level – I didn’t get that until after I got dropped, having played five Test matches. I went back to New South Wales, stopped bowling and found a game that was successful for me. It took a little while, it took 12 games to score my first 100 – since then it has gone pretty well.”
Will you be able to repeat the achievement of the 2013 Ashes series?
“That 5-0 victory was something special and I will never forget it. I would love to replicate it – 5-0 would be magnificent. You know, I would just love to win the series and I can’t wait to get out there and get started.”
You can hear the full interview with Steve Smith on Stumped on BBC World Service Radio on Saturday or download the podcast at bbcworldservice.com/stumped