The T20 influence!

Steve Smith simply loves the IPL, in which he turns out for Rajasthan Royals.-PTI

“It’s short and it’s sharp. It is dynamic and electric. It’s a great game to be involved with. It certainly helps other formats of the game,” says star Australian batsman Steve Smith about Twenty20 cricket. By G. Viswanath.

After an extraordinary home series against India and a superb World Cup, Steve Smith’s reputation has skyrocketed and IPL team Rajasthan Royals now see him as a key player. The young Australian responded to the following questions, most of it related to Twenty20.

Question: What makes you play Twenty20?

Answer: For the same reasons the fans love the game. It’s short and it’s sharp. It is dynamic and electric. It’s a great game to be involved with. It certainly helps other formats of the game. In Test cricket, the way some guys go out and play and score at four and five runs an over; something that you would not have seen before T20 cricket came in. I think it has really changed the way cricket is being played, and that is probably for the better.

Is IPL the best thing to have happened in modern times?

I think it’s a great tournament, to come over to India and be able to play in these conditions with and against the best players from around the world. It is a great learning experience. I have really enjoyed being involved in this tournament.

Have batsmen become fearless?

When T20 first started, it was a bit of hit and go, one tried to hit the first ball for a six. Twenty20 has changed quite a bit, a lot of strategies have come in now. Sometimes it’s not about going out there and hitting 4s and 6s, it is about building an innings, doing things a little bit smarter and at the right time. It certainly helped people improve skills, it really helped me evolve in the shorter format of the game and to be able to time the run chase and things like that. That’s why T20 is great.

Only players equipped with strong fundamentals can meet with success in this format…

Absolutely, there’s no reason why this can’t be the case. I think it’s great for all formats. Sometimes in Test cricket, you might have to go harder to try and get your team to win a match. Everyone can play all formats of the game.

Isn’t T20 really blooming?

There are a lot of T20 tournaments around the world. It’s really taken off. It’s great to play. Fans love watching it; they love to see the ball hit out of the ground and love the innovation; and how fast the game is. It is no different for the players. We are all really enjoying being involved in it.

What are the adjustments you have had to make?

I don’t really like to change too much. The fundamentals will stay the same. For me, in batting, it’s about having those gears to be able to go up and down and know when to get off strike and go to the other end. For me, it’s about knowing at what time to go harder and which bowlers to attack. That’s probably the big one for me.

What about the bowling variations?

There are a lot of different kinds of balls the bowlers bowl these days in order to try and restrict the batters from hitting boundaries and get them out as well. Bats have become bigger over the years, the grounds seem like getting smaller. The bowlers have had to respond and try to do something to hinder the damage and they’ve different sorts of balls over the last couple of years; slower bouncer, wide yorker, things like that. It’s great for the game and it will keep progressing that way. Moreover, different bowlers have different plans for different batters. A lot of bowlers practice these kinds of things. It is nice to have a couple of different plans up your sleeve. Some batters might hit the wide yorker quite well. Some batters might be better against the slower ball or a bouncer or something delivered in at their heels.

Twenty20 has changed fielding a lot?

It takes a lot of hard work. I really set high standards for myself on the field and want to be the one to take that game-breaking catch. Fielding is such a big part of T20 cricket. You see so many close games now and if you can save 10-15 runs in the field, it makes a big difference; you know chasing potentially 175 and 160, that’s quite a big difference in 20 overs of cricket. You will find a lot of games are won by a team’s fielding effort.

Australian cricketers have been a major force in IPL. Has CA been more accommodating?

Smith thinks highly of the Indian component in the Rajasthan Royals team. Here are some of the `local' RR players, Karun Nair, Dishant Yagnik, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Nair and Ankit Sharma at the Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai.-PTI

They have done pretty well with that. The schedules are obviously very busy these days with lots of cricket played. It’s good the Australian players have not missed much of the IPL since it started. That is a good thing and hopefully it continues.

How different is IPL from Big Bash?

It’s a bit different. The way you play in India, the stands are filled every game. Obviously, the conditions are a little bit different. The fundamentals of the game are still the same, it’s another T20 game. It’s amazing the way T20 is run in India. It is incredible.

Do you see Ricky Ponting looking to become Australia’s coach in the future?

He is involved with Mumbai Indians at the moment and I think he is enjoying his role. Not really sure where he is heading with his coaching career, to be honest.

Seven Indian and four overseas players in every IPL playing XI. Your comments.

We are obviously lucky at Rajasthan, we have got some quality local Indian players as well as overseas players. We have to support each other. We have had a lot of meetings where the coach and captain have said, it is tough to pick the XI out of all the players because most people here at the moment are in form. I know one thing here at the Royals is they produce good young Indian players and we have been able to do pretty well over a long period of time. We have had Sanju Samson and Deepak Hooda playing really well this year. That is the big part about Royals.

Regarding the Ashes…

Really looking forward to the Ashes over in England. It is going to be a tough battle. They are very good in their own conditions. Hopefully, we can continue with the same success we have had in Australia over the past 18 months. Our brand of cricket is really good and if we continue to do that, hopefully, we will continue to have a lot of success.