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Dwayne Smith, born on April 12, 1983 is a West Indian all-rounder who has made his mark as an aggressive batsman in limited overs cricket. Nishad Pai Vaidya profiles his career.
On the last day of the New Year’s Test at Cape Town in 2004, West Indies were facing an improbable 441 to win. The message for the batsmen was clear: They had to tackle the South African bowling and play out a draw. But, there was this 20-year-old with no fear, whose mission was to impress. At 224 for four, the game was fairly secured, but this man walked in and attacks the likes of Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Andre Nel and Jacques Kallis. As the Sun set, Newlands was set alight by his dazzling display. Dwayne Smith smashed 105 at a run-a-ball with 15 fours and two sixes. A new batsman with an unflinching bravado was found!
However, that remains Smith’s only Test century to date and a decade down the line he has played only nine more Tests, failing to score a fifty. He has made a mark, not so much in international cricket, but in T20s around the globe. In a world that has seen the rise of numerous leagues, Smith is one of those match winners who fit the bill and is sought after. With the bat he is destructive and can open the batting with good effect. His gentle medium pacers are useful whenever called upon and he is also a safe fielder. But, Test cricket did miss him playing to his potential.
Born on April 12, 1983 in Barbados, Smith first played for Barbados Under-19s in 1999. In 2002, he made his First-Class debut and two seasons on, he was selected for the tour to South Africa. It was quite a surprising choice as Smith had scored only one First-Class ton in his two seasons and yet had made it to the Test squad. After the Test debut, he did make his first appearance in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) on the same tour. It was only during the home series against Bangladesh that he made an impact with an all-round performance that won him the Man of the Series award.
Smith wasn’t able to achieve consistency though. He made sporadic appearances in Test cricket and played his last game in the format on the tour to New Zealand in 2006. After that hundred on debut, his best score was 42, which came against Bangladesh in 2004. However, he did feature fairly consistently in the ODI squad and delivered a few impact performances. But, at the time, West Indies were going through a very inconsistent phase and were losing tournaments one after the other. A major criticism of Smith’s playing style was that he used to target mid-wicket too many times and bowlers would get a hang of his gameplan. Many a times, he would try to play that slog-sweep over mid-wicket but would mistime it.
In the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup though, he had made his spot fairly secured in the main side. Until then, he had recorded his highest score of 68 and had also taken a four wicket haul against India in 2006. But, many did not support his selection for the big event. However, in the first game of the tournament against Pakistan, he scored a quickfire 32 and took three wickets to ensure a victory for his side. However, his form fell away thereafter and he failed to cross double figures in the next few games, before being dropped after the tour of England and Netherlands in 2007.
Meanwhile, Smith found his touch in T20 cricket and turned up for the Mumbai Indians and the Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He also played for Sussex in county cricket, in all the formats. However, it was T20 cricket where he made a real impact. He also made it into the New South Wales side in 2009-10.
In early 2010, Smith was recalled into the West Indies side for the tour to Australia. In what was an otherwise disastrous one-day campaign, Smith did a decent job, taking seven wickets and recording a few scores, which included a fifty. But, he was left out after Zimbabwe toured in 2010 and had to wait until September 2011 for a comeback into the T20 International side against England.
It was only in 2012 that Smith truly sprung back in international cricket with a destructive 70 against Australia in a T20 International. That also helped him return to the one-day squad and he was also a part of the World T20 winning team in Sri Lanka, playing only the opening game.
But, during the IPL 2012, he showed his true worth with the Mumbai Indians. In his first game of the season against Chennai Super Kings, he smashed 14 runs off the last three balls to help Mumbai win a game in a thrilling finale. That helped him get a promotion and he made an impact as an opener. In the following season in 2013, he was a vital cog in their victory as he scored quite a few runs opening the batting. Even during the Champions League T20 2013, Smith played a big role in Mumbai’s victory. Apart from that, he has also dabbled in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).
Smith has a lot to offer for West Indies cricket if he maintains his consistency. For now, he seems to have developed into a limited overs player and if he does play to his potential, it would be a great thing for West Indies. On his day he can be very destructive and in full flow, he is a treat to watch.
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