Skipper Steve Smith on Wednesday insisted he was excited rather than daunted as a drastically reshaped Australia look to avoid their first ever home Test series whitewash against rampant South Africa.
Australia’s cull after two Test thrashings has extended to five changes to the starting team for the day-night third Test in Adelaide, including three debutants.
But Smith was upbeat about the changes, which include English-born opener Matt Renshaw and fellow newcomers Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson.
“I’m really excited. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to stamp my authority on this team as the leader,” Smith said ahead of the first day on Thursday.
“I’ve almost felt a little shift over the last couple of days in attitude and energy from what the new guys have brought in.
“I know that growth doesn’t happen overnight, so it could take some time, but I am confident that with the guys we have here that we can start turning our results around straight away and start playing the way we want to play.”
It has been a traumatic time for Australian cricket after last week’s sudden resignation of chairman of selectors Rod Marsh, and with intense pressure on top officials including coach Darren Lehmann.
Smith is looking for stability and continuity as the new team face the prospect of a rare sixth straight Test defeat, including their 3-0 reverse in Sri Lanka.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to try and get a little bit of continuity with our team and try to make guys feel as comfortable as they can,” he said.
“I know when you feel comfortable and relaxed that’s the way you play your best cricket. It’s trying to get that feeling amongst the group.”
Australia won last year’s day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval, where they thrillingly beat New Zealand by three wickets on only the third day.
“If you look at pink ball statistics most wickets have been lost in the third (night) session of play,” Smith said.
“The ball has changed from last year. It has an extra layer of lacquer so it doesn’t swing as much as the previous ball.”
Smith has given Jackson Bird the third fast bowling spot behind spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, with local quick Chadd Sayers 12th man.
“Jackson Bird took five-for in his last Test match. He’s bowled well with the pink ball in the (Sheffield) Shield games he’s played,” he said.
“He’s batted well in the nets here and he deserves an opportunity. So it’s unlucky for Chadd to be missing out on his home ground, but we’ve gone with Jackson Bird.”
Smith said he gave no thought to an all-out pace attack, opting to play under-pressure spinner Nathan Lyon.
“We were always keen on playing a spinner in this game and that’s the way we’ve gone with Nathan Lyon,” he said.