Steven Smith has played with a clam head on his shoulders for Rajasthan Royals © PTI
The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 saw its first Super Over. As thrilling as the match was, it might not have had gone down to the wire. Shiamak Unwalla looks at how the Rajasthan Royals (RR) might have won the match comfortably had Steven Smith batted higher up the order.
The Rajasthan Royals (RR) have an undeniably good side on paper. They possess an accomplished bowling attack and an enviable batting line-up. With a few changes in the batting order, RR could well be a tough side to defeat.
Their think-tank seem to like Shane Watson batting at the No 4 position, even though he has traditionally been more successful at the top of the order. While this move is still understandable, what has been absolutely baffling is Steven Smith’s batting position. For a batsman with the talent that Smith possesses, he is absolutely wasted at No 6, which is where he has batted for most of the games he has played in this season.
Unless RR are planning to experiment with some more young batsmen at the top — Unmukt Chand, Ankush Bains and Deepak Hooda are exciting talents — it would be safe to assume that the second opener’s role will be taken by one of the batsmen currently in the side. In any event, Smith has to bat at a higher position than he is doing at present.
Smith has scores of 27 not out from 15 balls, 19 from 20 balls, and 19 not out from 11 balls in the three innings in which he has batted in IPL 7. In a side where the batting hasn’t quite clicked yet, Smith’s brief cameos have been a huge boost to them. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had enough time to stamp his authority on the proceedings, and that is where they are really missing out.
Let’s look at his innings in the Super Over against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). He was unbeaten on five runs from three balls. Obviously that sounds laughable, but Smith was on strike off the last ball of the Super Over. RR needed three runs to win outright, but they would have won even if they got two runs due to a superior boundary count. Smith knew that, so rather than slogging a spinner of the guile of Narine, he simply stepped out and drove him for a couple of runs. Effortless, intelligent and supremely confident. But then, those are epithets one would use to describe Smith’s batting any way.
Smith is a street-smart cricketer, and a batsman who can score runs at will. Having him bat in the top four will only benefit RR. They have top-order batsmen like Rahane and Samson who can build an innings, and they also have lower-order hitters like Stuart Binny and Abhishek Nayar who can plunder runs at the death.
In Smith, they have a batsman who can perform both roles with equal aplomb. Perhaps the Royals will be better off with him building an innings in the first ten overs, and then decimating attacks in the last ten.
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(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)