Few names are as synonymous with Australian cricket over the past decade as Steve Smith, but the batsman admitted that the next Ashes could be his last tour of England.
The former Australia captain has ventured to the county championship for the first time in his 13 years as an international cricketer during three matches for Sussex before this summer’s Ashes.
However, Smith has categorically denied that his time on the South Shore is being treated as an Ashes warm-up.
“A window opened up to play county cricket and it’s something I’ve never done and something I’ve always wanted to do, so the stars kind of aligned,” the 33-year-old told a news conference in Hove. .
Smith’s spell at county cricket has been controversial and criticized by those who have blamed Sussex and those further up the national game for allowing a number of Australians the chance to hone their craft ahead of the highly anticipated Ashes this summer. .
But when asked about his intentions, Smith referred to his impressive record last time Australia came, when he averaged 110.57 in the entire series, suggesting he may not need the championship.
“I’m excited to play some cricket. Obviously I wasn’t doing much at home so I had a few weeks off and now it’s just a matter of getting back to things.
“I’ve seen a lot of talk about getting used to the conditions, but you have to remember I’ve played a lot of cricket in England before so the conditions aren’t really new to me.
“I look forward to the next two weeks. I’m looking forward to hanging out with some of the younger hitters and helping them a lot on their journey.”
Even former England assistant and now Sussex manager Paul Farbrace has admitted he has come under fire for his decision to sign Smith, from those who believe he has helped the Aussies.
“Sports is about opinions, that’s what we love about the game,” Farbrace said. “I’m not surprised (by the critics). I have good friends who think that we are helping Steve and that we are helping Australia to win the Ashes. We are not at all.”
While County Championship Division Two is without the likes of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who will undoubtedly, barring injuries, face Australia on June 16 in Edgbaston, Smith has already met an England closer in Sussex. .
Ollie Robinson has been a key part of the England team since overcoming health problems last year and has already scalped Smith in the nets.
“He bowled me yesterday actually. I dropped a third ball and he put me down,” Smith said. “It was not ideal. So he impressed me a lot when he was in Australia and he has very good skills.
“He’s pretty tall and he hits some good areas, so it looks like he’s gotten better since then, so I’m looking forward to playing him this week and seeing how he goes. Obviously he is an exciting prospect for England with the skills that he possesses.”
Australia have not won an Ashes series in England since 2001, when a team spearheaded by a bowling attack from Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne cruised to a 4-1 victory.
While Smith has lifted the urn twice, both have been on Australian soil, and the now 33-year-old admitted this could be his last chance to secure the coveted victory in England.
“Could this be the last one (in England)? Potentially, I’m 34, but I’m not sure I’ll go back. Let’s see, ”he said.