The Mumbai Indians opener Dwayne Smith played yet another scratchy, yet match-winning knock as his side registered their first points in the ongoing Champions League Twenty20 2013. Prakash Govindasreenivasan talks about Smith’s ability to grab the opener’s spot and bring new ways to approach the position.
When Twenty20 cricket made its debut back in 2003, it looked promising enough to bring about a change in the way the game is played. Batsmen had to innovate, bowlers had to contain and fielders were accountable for every single run lost. One of the most salient features of the changing game was the fact the impact was soon to replace aesthetics.
West Indies cricketer Dwayne Smith is a product of this innovation. He belongs to the generation of cricketers who would compromise on textbook in a quest to make an impact.
With a testing knock of 63 from 47 balls, Smith displayed the same blueprint of his batting that dominated during Mumbai Indians’ successful Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign in 2013.
Smith’s slam-bang approach was originally tailor-made for a spot in any middle-order but Mumbai’s lack of a good opening partner for Sachin Tendulkar in the IPL 2013 prompted them to give Smith a try at the top. The move, to most people’s surprise, worked wonders.
Smith was an unlikely choice to open the innings but took up the challenge and modeled his game based on the demands of his position. Despite being looked at as a cricketer who would walk out and throw his bat around at anything thrown at him, Smith proved that he was a thinking cricketer and was capable enough to adapt to situations. His biggest triumph as a T20 cricketer is his ability to curb his natural instincts and showcase patience early on in the innings, before blazing away towards the end.
Even this simple sounding plan was easier said than done. Smith often struggled to cope with the kind of pace that was generated with the new shiny ball early on in the innings and would often be found unaware when there is a hint of swing.
Smith also had his trials and tribulations against the spin bowlers who were often introduced early on to get rid of him. Often, oppositions looked at Smith as a walking wicket but the West Indian all-rounder worked extra hard on his concentration and focus to dig in during crunch games. Be it his 44-ball 62 in second IPL Qualifier, his 58-ball 87 against the Rajasthan Royals or the 45-ball 62 against the Kolkata Knight Riders, Smith brought about an uncanny transition from a scratchy start to a match-winning knock, even before the opposition teams realized what hit them.
The flipside to Smith’s approach is that if he takes his time to get his eye in and eventually throws his wicket away before making enough impact, his contribution would be a blot on the scorecard. Like in the game against the Chennai Super Kings at Wankhede in 2013, Smith began in typical fashion and played cautiously. However, when an odd loose delivery came his way, he failed to dispatch it and ended up throwing his wicket away to finish of 22 from 24 deliveries.
There are a couple of more instances where Smith was dismissed before his tough start could blossom into full-fledged innings. Despite this risk, Smith proved to be one of the handiest acquisitions for the Mumbai-based franchise. With 418 runs from 13 matches, including four half-centuries, Smith proved his worth at the top of the order.
Smith’s style of play may not please the romantics but then it is not meant to. In an era when impact overrules aesthetics, Mumbai Indians have a gem in Dwayne Smith.