Steve Smith starts Australia’s four-Test series against India with a sore back but don’t be surprised to the see him finish it with another mountain of runs.
Smith has allayed fears he could miss the first Test, batting in the nets during Australia’s final session before the day-night Test begins at Adelaide Oval on Thursday.
The hobbled former skipper was unable to bat on Tuesday, raising alarms he could join David Warner (groin) in missing the series opener.
But Smith was the first Australian player to stride onto the ground on Wednesday and quickly had the pads on, facing some throwdowns and deliveries from Moises Henriques.
Smith could yet wake up in worse shape but, as Tim Paine noted on match eve, it would take something quite serious to stop him from playing.
Paine opted against naming Australia’s XI until the toss but confirmed 21-year-old allrounder Cameron Green is fit to make his Test debut.
Out-of-form batsman Joe Burns is expected to open alongside Matthew Wade, who will shuffle up the order from No.5.
Smith was memorably suspended during Virat Kohli’s previous visit to Adelaide, admitting he found it hard to watch India claim their maiden Test series win in Australia.
The run glutton failed to live up to his lofty standards during 2019-20 but started this season with consecutive 62-ball ODI centuries against India, gleefully declaring he had “found” his hands.
“He’s so driven to excel, he’s going to have a massive summer,” former national coach Darren Lehmann told AAP.
I expect him to maybe have his best summer. Although he’s been pretty good in a few different years for Australia.
“To raise the bar like he’s trying to is unbelievable.”
Memories of Smith’s record-breaking tally of 769 Test runs during the 2014-15 series between the rivals will linger in Kohli’s memory.
Paine noted Smith has dealt with a stiff back on a number of occasions.
“You do when you bat at training as much as he does,” Paine said.
“He normally gets up, gets through it and finds a way to score runs.
“But his preparation has been very good. He has batted for the last week since we have been in Adelaide.
“For him to have a day off might actually be a blessing in disguise.”
Paine suggested Burns, who had some extensive one-on-one time with coach Justin Langer on Tuesday, is in good spirits despite a slump that has resulted in him scoring 62 runs from nine first-class innings this season.
“He’s been looking forward to this Test,” Paine said. “You’ll see a pretty similar side walk out that finished the summer here last year in Australia.”
Green, who suffered a minor concussion last Friday, batted in the nets on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
“He is pretty good to go,” Paine said.
“He obviously trained with us yesterday, reports are he has pulled up really well this morning.”
Likely Australia XI: Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (capt), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.