At the start of the 2019 Ashes, Steve Smith told me he was feeling "terrible" about his batting. His form then was not dissimilar to now. If anything, he has more reason to be confident.
After more than a year out of international cricket, Smith went into the Ashes off the back of a steady, rather than spectacular, World Cup. He was subdued in his only red-ball warm-up with scores of nine and eight.
Steve Smith has made just 10 runs this series.Credit:Quinn Rooney
As well as Mohammed Siraj bowled on debut in Melbourne, it's a big ask to expect a Test newcomer to hold such high standards so early in his career.
When I say aggressive, I'm not urging Smith to play a risky shot to find the boundary, which is the school of thought for many modern players. He just needs to rotate the strike more – something I feel only Marnus Labuschagne has done well for Australia this series.
That said, Smith has shown he can soak up pressure early before flourishing. He could be one shot away from it happening again.
The series hangs on a knife-edge. Even without Virat Kohli, this is a very good India side that cannot be compared to previous touring teams. The players genuinely believe they can win – and they play accordingly. They have been the better side this series.
The beauty of a four-match contest is it gives the chance for sides to come back once a pattern of play has been established. This is the challenge for Australia's batsmen: to reverse the hold India's bowlers have on them.
Before this series, many thought Australia's batting would be much stronger than two years ago, with Smith and David Warner back, and Labuschagne becoming one of the best batsmen in the world. The reverse has happened.
Warner has been injured and the other two haven't got going, exposing a lack of depth in the batting.
Since the start of the Ashes, no other Australian batsman has averaged above 40. The issues at the top are glaring. Excluding Warner, the other opener – Joe Burns, Matthew Wade, Marcus Harris and Cameron Bancroft – has averaged only 21. No player has been able to make the spot his own.
There is no need for hours of meetings to work out what Australia have to fix in order to bounce back. They're not making enough runs. Sure, both sides have high-class attacks, but India have found a way to get to 300.
Australia need to find another 100 runs; someone in the top six has to make a century. Smith can be that man.
Mark Taylor played 104 Tests for Australia, 50 of them as captain, and scored 7525 runs. He is a former Cricket Australia board member.
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