While the young generation of Australian batsmen hog all the limelight, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons, the rise of once a Twenty20 specialist, Steven Smith, in Test cricket is a welcome sign for a struggling side, writes Devarchit Varma.
Steve Waugh called him the most promising cricketer that Australia has seen in the last 20 years. Shane Warne was the reason why he opted to become a leg-spinner and not a seamer. He even trained under the spin legend. Steven Smith, who was touted as the next Australian spin master, is gradually turning out to be a batsman Australia need the most — not necessarily in the middle order, but someone who can thump the ball all over the park at a brisk rate, thanks to his impressive progress.
Smith is not someone who would drop the anchor and consume lot of deliveries to build an innings. He is a fluent stroke player, who likes the ball coming hard at him and slashes it equally hard in return. His exploits with the bat in the Australian domestic circuit and Warne’s judgement that he had “all the toys” as a leg-spinner promoted Smith as a bowling all-rounder, resulting in a Test debut in 2010. But the drastic change which Smith’s career has witnessed over the past few months promises Australia a fine batsman in the time to come.
Smith’s reinvention as a quality batsman down the batting order has indeed brought some relief to the worried Australian cricket fraternity. While the likes of Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh continue to battle their shortcomings and frequent axing, Smith enjoys a relatively free stage to prove his mettle and keep honing his skills as a handy batsman lower down the batting order.
Smith’s career has arrived at a crucial stage which he has to handle carefully. There is no dearth of talent in him — the former cricketers’ praise certified that. He has to build on the momentum that he has gained in past few months as a pure batsman and continue the good work.
Smith wasn’t in the reckoning for the Ashes despite an impressive show during the India tour earlier in the year. The innings of 92 at Mohali could have been the stepping stone but he wasn’t considered for the Ashes. But thanks to the backing of coach Darren Lehmann and the selectors’ faith, Smith found a way back into the national side when Michael Clarke got injured before the start of the series.
What has immensely benefitted Smith on the Ashes tour is the fact that he has got a good run at the top level — he played all five Ashes Tests — unlike his fellow batsmen who continue to move in and out due to repeated failures. He has committed his portion of errors but has got a chance to rectify them. He too felt the heat when there seemed no hope in the current crop of Australian batsmen. But his two half-centuries and a superb hundred in the first innings of the final Test at The Oval are enough to provide him the fuel to carry on the good work.
Smith batted with flair in the first innings at The Oval and the manner in which he brought up his maiden ton in Test cricket — with a six off Jonathan Trott — exemplifies the confidence he has in him at the top level.
There are a few cricketers in the international arena who have improved many folds in the recent past such as Ravindra Jadeja, Joe Root, Cheteshwar Pujara and a few more. Steven Smith is indeed among them.