Back in the swing … Steve Smith says his action has improved and he's ready to bowl again. Photo: Edwina Pickles
SYDNEY SIXERS all-rounder Steve Smith has ended a self-imposed ban from leg-spin bowling, after he spent a month filtering through ''stuff'' that had clouded his head, and is channelling the carefree approach he brought on to the scene six years ago.
The 23-year-old, who has represented Australia in all three forms of cricket, also hosed down suggestions he had abandoned leg-spin to embrace off-spin.
''I just took a bit of a back seat with my bowling,'' he said. ''I just wanted to forget a few things with my action and be a bit more natural because I lost a bit of consistency with where the ball was landing. I wasn't quite sure where it was going, to be honest. So I wanted a break and when I thought about it, I felt the best I'd bowled was when I was 17 and it was a bit more natural. I did a bit of work at the [Cricket Australia] academy and changed a few things with my load-up and I reckon I lost a bit of accuracy through that.
''It was still there … but in my mind I wanted to forget about it for a while and try to be a bit more natural with it all. I started bowling in the nets at training on Wednesday and it felt pretty good. The ball came out well and, depending on how things go, I might get a crack [at the Perth Scorchers] on Sunday. It's coming back and, hopefully, it comes back better.''
Smith said watching Shane Warne - who mentored him - bowl for the Melbourne Stars in Wednesday night's match against Perth helped revitalise his passion for leg-spin. ''He bowled really well and I enjoyed watching it,'' he said. ''Even just watching Shane bowl helps me out with my bowling because it excites me and gets me wanting to bowl more.''
Smith, who has played five Tests, said his catch cry for the remainder of the summer was consistency. ''In the shorter form of the game, I think I'm getting a lot smarter with the way I'm approaching my innings and also the way I read the game,'' he said.
''I've just aimed to go out with a clear mind; to try not to premeditate my shots and if I'm going to play a few big shots I try to have a few deliveries under my belt first; have my eye in a bit better.''
Smith, who has played 20 T20 games for Australia, was determined to make his mark in the Big Bash League. ''I think [to return to the Australian team] I just need some big scores,'' he said. ''I hit three 90s this year, which is a little bit disappointing because I would have liked a few more hundreds. It's just about getting those runs on the board and the more I can do that, the more I can put my name up there.''
Meanwhile, Smith nominated his former NSW teammate Simon Katich as the target in Sunday's Big Bash League match at the SCG when the Sixers play the Perth Scorchers.
''Simon is a very experienced player, he's very level-headed and will try to do what he always does,'' he said. ''He also knows how to handle every situation that can occur in a game. He's one player we want to get out early so we can get stuck into their middle. Perth's middle seems a little inexperienced and if we can get in among them, it will be very helpful for us.
''While Perth were a bit disappointing in the Champions League and in the first few Big Bash League games, we won't take them lightly … they have some game-changers and we know as a team we need to go out and do our best and improve in every game of the tournament.''