DHAKA (Reuters) - Australia have an opportunity to improve their record in Asia when they meet Bangladesh in a two-test series starting next Sunday, captain Steve Smith has said but refused to state outright if his side were favourites to win.
Australia have won just two of their 22 tests in Asia in the last 10 years while Bangladesh drew a two-test series 1-1 against England last year and pose a serious challenge at home with throes of spinners in their side on turning pitches.
“I think it is going to be a great series,” Smith told reporters after Australia’s arrival in the Asian country. “Bangladesh are very good here. I am not picking a favourite.
“We have to be confident in our skill set and hopefully we can get our processes right and have a really good series.”
Earlier this year Smith’s side lost a four-test series in India 2-1 and the skipper said the two matches against Bangladesh would be an ideal platform to show what they had learned from the defeat.
“We’d certainly like to have done a lot better on the subcontinent that’s for sure,” Smith said. “Now it is an opportunity for us to change (our record).
“I thought we did some things really well in India. We just needed to do it for little bit longer, and consistently.
“This is another opportunity to showcase our skills, show what we learned over there and hopefully give our best foot forward.”
Australia surprisingly dropped Steve O’Keefe, 32, from their squad for Bangladesh even after the left-arm spinner impressed during the series in India.
O’Keefe, with 19 wickets, was Australia’s joint highest wicket-taker with Nathan Lyon in India but had to make way for left-arm spinner Ashton Agar. Australia also have uncapped 23-year-old leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson in their squad.
“It is unlucky,” Smith said. “He did very well in the first test match in India and had some contributions throughout in the other three test matches as well.”
Smith said the inclusion of Agar, 23, was aimed at developing him for the 2021 tour of India.
“We just see it as a bit of a time to get us someone new into the group,” Smith said.
“Ashton has been around the group for a quite a while now, he’s worked on his art and he’s becoming a lot more consistent in what he’s doing. It’d be fantastic to see him get an opportunity.
“It’s four years until we next go to India which is always a tough tour for us and one that I particularly as captain want to win (at some stage) throughout my tenure.
“It’s an opportunity for Ashton to get some experience in these conditions and hopefully improve, with an eye to the next time we go to India as well.”
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Greg Stutchbury