Virat Kohli and Steven Smith © BCCI

“It’s always a hard fought contest playing against India, and we are excited by the challenge of playing over here.” © BCCI

After squaring the Test series 1-1 in Bangladesh, Australia have arrived in India for a limited-overs tour consisting of five One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals expecting another tough battle.

Steven Smith, the Australian skipper, ruled out any lingering after-effects of the acrimony of the Test series in February-March, a showdown that India won 2-1. In his first interaction with the media on Sunday (September 10) in Chennai, Smith said, “I think it will be played in good spirit. It’s always a hard fought contest playing against India, and we are excited by the challenge of playing over here. I wasn’t on the last ODI series in 2013. It was a big run-fest — pretty flat wickets and big totals. We will see what we are presented with but it could be the same again.”

While Australia have had their fair share of problems against the turning ball, Smith pointed out that the limited-overs specialists played spin a lot better. “Obviously, we are still learning in the Test format. We have come from a challenging tour of Bangladesh. The guys are learning and trying to improve,” he pointed out. “So hopefully, they can continue to do so. I am not sure the one-day wickets will present quite as much spin perhaps as some of the Test wickets. But we have to wait and see and adapt to the conditions accordingly.

“Playing for Australia in any format, you can continue to put your name up there and this is going to be a tough tour. We have been following the India-Sri Lanka series in bits and pieces; They are playing some really good cricket. It’s a good challenge for us. It’s always tough playing India in India. They are a very good ODI side. Just seeing the side they have announced, it looks like a strong side. We are excited by the challenge of the series.”

On Kohli, the ODI king:
“He is a very good player. He has phenomenal ODI record and he is obviously going to be dangerous for us throughout this series as well. Hopefully we can keep him quiet as much as possible. And if we do that, then hopefully that can go a long way in having some success on this tour.”

India have once again left out R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, their primary spin weapons, as they look for more options leading in to the 2019 World Cup. Having obviously done his homework, Smith said, “Axar Patel has done pretty well for them, (Yuzvendra) Chahal is in the squad, Kuldeep Yadav is a good bowler too. They have got some really good spin options. We got to play them well throughout the series.”

The Aussies themselves have a more than handy spin option in Adam Zampa, the attacking legspinner. “He has got a pretty good record over the last year or two. He has got some experience playing in these conditions in IPL,” said Smith, Zampa’s skipper at Rising Pune Supergiant last season. “We know what to expect from Zampa. And if he gets his opportunity, hopefully he can have some success on this tour.”

For a while now, Australia have travelled with S Sriram, the former Indian allrounder, as their spin-bowling consultant. Smith heaped praise on the Tamil Nadu left-hand batsman and left-arm spinner, saying, “Sri’s been really good. He has got some great knowledge of how to play in these conditions. He has helped a lot of the players, particularly the spin bowlers, in understanding the right ways to bowl in these conditions. Probably more for the longer format, than in the shorter format. The wickets generally don’t offer quite as much spin as it does for the Tests. He’s got great knowledge about a lot of grounds in India and how different wickets play. He has been really good for this group.”

This limited-overs leg will be Australia’s last international assignment before the home Ashes against England. Smith didn’t foresee that being a factor at all going into the England Tests. “I know before the last Ashes series (i 2013), there was a ODI tour with India much like this one. I don’t see it as an issue,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of time, we get back home and get to play a shield game and get ready for the Ashes.”

The first of five ODIs will be played in Chennai on September 17. Australia will warm-up for the tour with a 50-over game against a Board President’s XI, also in Chennai, on Tuesday, and wind up their month-long tour with the last T20I in Hyderabad on October 13.