Australia great Steve Smith says winning a Test series in England would be a “bucket list” achievement as he prepares for potentially his final overseas Ashes series with a stint at county club Sussex.
The star batsman turned down a chance to play in the lucrative IPL to appear in three County Championship matches for the south coast side, starting with Thursday’s second division clash away to Worcestershire.
He will join up with Australia for their World Test Championship final against India at The Oval in early June before the tourists begin their quest for a first Ashes series win in England since 2001.
Smith, asked what winning an Ashes series in England would mean to him, said: “It would be a huge one to tick off the bucket list I suppose.”
“We haven’t been able to do it, but we got close last time and were unable to get over the line,” he added as he reflected on the drawn 2019 Ashes in England.
In that series Smith started with twin hundreds in the first Test at Edgbaston after returning from a year-long ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal.
“This will be my fourth tour [of England],” he said at Sussex’s Hove headquarters on Tuesday. “Could this be my last?
“Potentially. I mean, I’m 34 in just under a month. I’m not sure I’ll be back. We’ll see.”
READ: India go top of ICC Test rankings
Appearing in the Championship will be a new experience for Smith, who has a superb Test record in England, where he averages nearly 60 from 16 matches.
“It’s something I’ve never done and have always wanted to do, so the stars aligned in a way,” he said. “I’m excited.”
One of Smith’s new team-mates at Sussex will be England seamer Ollie Robinson, who in March forecast Ben Stokes’ side would give Australia a “good hiding” in the Ashes after they were beaten 4-0 in Australia in 2021-22.
“Ollie bowled to me yesterday [Monday] actually,” said Smith. “I left one, the third ball, and he knocked me over, so that wasn’t ideal.
“But I was impressed with him actually when he was out in Australia. I thought he had some really good skills. He’s quite tall, he hit some good areas and looks like he’s got better since then.”
England’s Test team are transformed since captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took over last year, winning 10 out of 12 matches in dynamic style.
But doubts persist over whether such tactics will work when their batsmen face an Australia attack including Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon.
“The aggressive brand they’ve played has been great to watch from afar,” said Smith. “But coming up against it, hopefully it doesn’t come off.”
Sussex’s decision to sign the prolific batsman has led to criticism that they are aiding one of England’s key opponents in a way unlikely to be reciprocated in Australia.
But the player himself said he would have no qualms were England batting ace Joe Root to turn out for New South Wales ahead of an Ashes campaign in Australia.
Sussex coach Paul Farbrace said Smith’s “winning mentality”, run-scoring and cricket knowledge would benefit a youthful squad.
“This morning our seamers are running in bowling at Puj [India’s Cheteshwar Pujara] in one net and Steve in the other – that is a fantastic learning already,” he said.
Farbrace, a former England assistant coach, added: “Sport’s all about opinions … The fact that people are talking about Championship cricket is only good for the game.
“I’ve got good friends who think that we’re helping Australia to win the Ashes. We’re not at all. I think this is really good for English cricket.”
Smith added: “Hopefully I can do some really good things the next few weeks and people are just able to watch me and how I go about it. Hopefully, that’s enough for them. but I’m also here to talk if anyone wants to talk any cricket.”
© Agence France-Presse