Australia's Steve Smith. Picture: SHAEED KHAN / AFP
Australia's Steve Smith. Picture: SHAEED KHAN / AFP

Sydney — Australia star Steve Smith admits he has barely picked up a bat since cricket shut down, but says he is in his best physical shape in years.  

The world’s No 1 Test batsman has been out of action since March, when Australia’s one-day series against New Zealand was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He returned to training with his New South Wales teammates on Monday as they await the green light for competitive cricket to start again, targeting a home one-day series against Zimbabwe in August.

“I feel like I’ve had a preseason the last couple of months. Got myself into probably the best shape I’ve been in years. Lots of running, lots of gym stuff,” 30-year-old Smith said. “It’s been a couple of months of good hard work and now back with the boys, which is great.”

But with no net practice, he has barely picked up his bat.

“I haven’t touched a bat, really. A couple of little drills at home but that’s about it,” said Smith, who has scored more than 7,000 Test runs. “I’ve just tried to switch off from it a bit, which I don’t do very often. I was just focusing on getting myself fit and strong and refreshing mentally.

“It’s been a bit different but I’m sure in the long run it will probably be a good thing to freshen up after what was a pretty long year-and-a-half since the World Cup and Ashes and summer here. I’m refreshed and ready to go.” 

If the virus had not struck, Smith would have been in the plane to Bangladesh in June for a two-Test series, after playing in the postponed Indian Premier League. He was one of six Cricket Australia-contracted players in the New South Wales squad who rejoined their state teammates on Monday, including David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon.

The squad has been divided into four groups who alternate morning and afternoon indoor gym and skills sessions as part of Covid-19 return-to-training protocols.