A BATTING WITH BIMAL BREAKING REPORT: I am ready to take on all ‘unique challenges’ that come up in Australia, says Graeme Smith

Smith wants South Africa to concentrate on retaining their world number one Test ranking

South Africa Test captain Graeme Smith has announced that his team are ready to take on all “unique challenges” that await them during their three-Test series against Australia.

Things haven’t exactly got off to an excellent start for the South Africans since the team management wanted the squad’s three-day practice match in Sydney against Australia A to be moved to another venue closer to Brisbane, where their first Test against the Australian team will be held.

“We tried hard to move it from Sydney but we haven’t had any luck, but we’ll have to get stuck in and make it count no matter where we play it. We are not going to be able to use that as an excuse,” Smith said.

The last time South Africa and Australia played at Brisbane was back in 1963, and this mean that it will be the first time the Proteas will play at the venue since their readmission into international cricket in 1991.

Despite not being able to change the venue for the three-day match against Australia A, Proteas head coach Gary Kirsten stated that the team were fully prepared.

“We went to England in the same way. We wanted to prepare really well. We didn’t want to say too much, we wanted to make our performances count because in a three-match series, one session can make a big difference,” Kirsten said.

However, some cricket pundits believe that South Africa may not be as well prepared as they think because six of their players have not participated in any first-class or Test cricket since returning home from the Test series in England over the summer.

Smith, Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, Robin Peterson and JP Duminy have not played any Test cricket since returning home, while wicketkeeper AB de Villiers has been recovering from a chronic back and ankle injury he re-aggravated in the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20.

Meanwhile, players like Morne Morkel, Thami Tsolekile, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis, Faf du Plessis and Jacques Rudolph will have had some sort of practice after playing in the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) for their respective teams.

Pace bowler Vernon Philander, spinner Imran Tahir and new addition Rory Kleinveldt were the only players who represented their teams in the domestic league.

Kirsten believes that the most important thing for the team is to be mentally ready for all the challenges they will face, and captain Smith added that he was confident about the determination his team are showing ahead of the first Test on November 9.

“We know we are going to face some unique challenges in Australia and we will be ready for them,” Smith added.

Australia coach Mickey Arthur previously held the same position in the Proteas camp, and he was responsible for laying the foundations of their ultimate rise to become the number one Test team.

Under Arthur, South Africa beat England and Australia in front of their home fans in 2008 and 2009.

Since Arthur coached the South African team, many people see this as an advantage to the Australians, but Smith was quick to dismiss the claim, and said: “As a South African, It’s not something new that we have had to face [one of our own in another team]. I suppose, if we can put Australia under pressure, we know how Mickey is going to be reacting in the change room. But if I lose sleep over what Mickey is telling Australia that will affect the team.”

Many cricket pundits see this series as a battle between the two pace attacks, whereby you have Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc in one corner, and Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Rory Kleinveldt in the other.

However, Smith noted that the only difference between the two pace attacks was the fact that Australia have a rotation policy in effect, which means that South Africa will not know which bowlers they pick until a couple of days before the match.

“We know Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle are their two main guys and they may rotate the youngsters. So it’s also a little bit of an unknown, in terms of who they are going to play, it’s all guys that we have come across before, though. We have got a really good pace attack as well and hopefully they can attack. Brisbane and Perth could be quite fiery from the sounds of things. We know our attack has the opportunity to exploit things,” Smith said.

The Australian media published articles suggesting that Smith and the rest of the South African team were going to specifically target veteran batsman Ricky Ponting throughout the series in order to unsettle him, but Smith denied making any such comments.

“I don’t look to put his head on a mantelpiece. He has done well and he deserves all the respect in the world. Our job is to go there and make sure that he doesn’t perform, with our bowling attack, we need to be able to put all the Australia batsmen under pressure. We do have a proven bowling attack that has travelled the world and done well, so we are not going headhunting,” Smith added.

Smith noted that the priority of the South African team was to stop the Australians from beating them and taking their number one Test team ranking.

“They are on a momentum shift and an upward curve, and they would believe they are going to beat us there, but it’s well known that we’ve got some really quality players as well,” Smith said.

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