MOHALI: Recalled Steve Smith believes he is a vastly improved batsman to the one that was dropped after Australia's home Ashes defeat 26 months ago.
The 23-year-old was chosen to make a sixth Test appearance at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, although will have to wait until Friday to take to the ground after the first day of the third Test was abandoned due to rain.
Suspensions to two alternative members of the Australian batting order - Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja - for breaches of team discipline -opened the door for Smith, who has been previously considered by selectors as an all-rounder but now has shifted his attention squarely on his batting.
"I think I've improved a lot the last 12 to 18 months," he said. "I've changed a couple of things with my technique that have made me a bit more stable at the crease, a bit more balanced and more selective as well.
"I feel like I'm tightening my technique up quite a bit and I feel as if I've been playing spin really well on this trip in the nets and previously as well. I'm looking forward to getting out there and having a crack in the middle and hopefully I'll be successful.
"I've been training very hard this tour. There's been quite a few of us on the sidelines and we've got a good chance to get in the nets and work on our skills at those times. I feel like I've done that and feel I'm going really well at the moment. To be back in the XI is very exciting and I'm looking forward to hopefully getting some play tomorrow."
Smith is no stranger to Mohali. It was here, in 2010, that as a substitute fielder he narrowly missed a direct run-out hit that would have won a nail-biting match against India.
More than two years later his athletic skills in the field are still considered an impressive asset by team hierarchy, but the other facet of Smith's game - leg-spin bowling - has taken a back seat. He bowled only 15 overs this season in the Sheffield Shield for NSW, taking one wicket and while he will likely be called upon as support for frontline spinners Nathan Lyon and Xavier Doherty in Mohali.
Smith averages 28.78 in five Tests and was dumped in the post-Ashes clean-out after last playing against England in Sydney in January 2011.
"I've probably always been more of a batsman than I was a bowler," he said. "The first two Tests I played, I played as a bowler. It's a bit different now to come in as a No.5 specialist batter and that's something I've worked really hard on in the last couple of years, becoming more balanced and getting big runs. I'm excited about coming out in this Test as a batter and hopefully I'll be able to get a few out in the middle as well.
"At NSW we've got Steve O'Keefe and young Adam Zampa coming through as a leg-spinner. I haven't had to do a hell of a lot of bowling in the last year or two. It's still something that I do work on pretty hard in the nets. In this game the wicket looks pretty dry so there could be a chance to roll a few leggies out in the second innings if there's a bit of rough."