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"If that gets the best out of them, go for it": Smith backs tough talk in India


India haven’t lost at home in their past 20 Tests and Australia’s subcontinental form is woeful, but Steve Smith has endorsed a feisty approach from his side just over a week out from the series opener in Pune.

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Following a training camp in Dubai to prepare for the four-Test series, the Australian captain was in an upbeat mood looking ahead to the next six weeks against the No.1-ranked and well-balanced India at home.

It’s easily the toughest tour in international cricket.

Virat Kohli and Ravi Ashwin are in freakish form.

And it comes only six months after Australia were humiliated 3-0 in Sri Lanka, their third straight whitewash loss in Asia after a 2-0 defeat to Pakistan in the UAE in 2014 and a 4-0 drubbing in India a year earlier.

But Smith was far from undeterred when speaking in Mumbai, where Australia play their only warm-up game – a three-day fixture against India A starting tomorrow.

He’s not going to stop his players taking it to Kohli’s side – who have recorded 17 wins and three draws in their last 20 Test matches at home – if that’s what they believe might give them an edge in the hot, dry and draining conditions.

“If they (individuals) want to get into a battle verbally, and that gets the best out of them then go for it,” said Smith.

“It’s all about us making sure that us as individuals are in the right mind set to go out and succeed.

“In the end it’s about us playing on skill and making sure that our skills are in the best place for us to succeed in these conditions.”

While Nathan Lyon and Australia’s other spinners have struggled for the same effectiveness as their slow-bowling rivals in Asia over the past four years, the tourists’ batting has been their main weakness.

They haven’t scored enough runs to give their bowlers, who might ultimately rely more on Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood’s pace and reverse swing, a chance to stay in the grind.

In Dubai, Australia’s batsmen worked on ways to score and survive against the relentlessly accurate spin bowling they’re set to face mostly from Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja.

“Guys were able to try and find the best way to hopefully have success here in India, it’s so foreign to what we get back home,” Smith said.

“You don’t really want people to change their natural games, it’s always important to be positive and look to score.

“The moment you start defending you’re probably in trouble.

“But ultimately your defence is what helps you out when you’re in trouble and it’s going to be important that our defences are strong.”

India have named a 16-man squad with no surprises for the first two Tests of the four-match series.

Fresh from a 208-run hammering of Bangladesh in their one-off Test in Hyderabad, captain Kohli yesterday headlined the same squad from that clash that will be aiming to inflict more pain for Australia in the subcontinent.

Australia’s 3-0 Test series defeat to Sri Lanka in August was their third straight whitewash loss in Asia after a 2-0 defeat to Pakistan in the UAE in 2014 and a 4-0 drubbing in India a year earlier.

Top-ranked India, on the other hand, are on a 19-Test unbeaten streak.

That undefeated run is the best in Test cricket since Australia went 22 matches without a loss between September 2005 and January 2008.

Fast bowler Mohammed Shami, who missed the last two Tests of the recent five-match series against England with a leg injury, was not considered fit enough for selection.

Batsman Rohit Sharma, who injured his thigh during the one-day international series against New Zealand in October, only recently resumed training after undergoing surgery in England and was also deemed short of match fitness.

Uncapped left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav replaced injured leg-spinner Amit Mishra in the squad for the Bangladesh Test and he retained his place.

Mishra hurt his knee during India’s T20 win over England on February 1.

The last two Tests will be played in Ranchi and Dharamsala.

India squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund, Hardik Pandya.


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