Steven Smith remains undefeated in the first ten Tests as Australia's skipper © Getty Images
Steven Smith remains undefeated in the first ten Tests as Australia’s skipper © Getty Images

When Michael Clarke was towards the end of his Test career, it was widely known who his replacement as Australia’s Test skipper would be. The current esteem, regard and recognition is surely not very new for Steven Smith, who currently leads the side across formats. Clarke’s injuries during the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2014-15, Smith became Australia’s 45th Test captain when he was handed the arm-band for the last three Tests. He became one of those few skippers who have a win written with their first Test as a captain. Smith led the final three Tests of that series before taking up Australia’s full-time Test captaincy during the Trans-Tasman Trophy at home in 2015-16. He was handed a side that was no less than humiliated in Ashes 2015. Smith was handed over a side that was suddenly without a string of reliable players like Clarke, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris. FULL SCORECARD: New Zealand vs Australia, 2nd Test at Christchurch

Not everyone expected to watch Smith pull the inexperienced side off the transition phase superbly. Who knew after his first ten Tests, he will be seen chasing a 95-year-old record, Smith would just see himself among the Australian greats? But wait, will this early success make or break the making of another legendary Australian Test skipper?  Sakshi Gupta throws up a few questions…

Steven Smith’s results as Test skipper so far:

Country Opposition Ground Result
Australia India Brisbane Won
Australia India Melbourne Won
Australia India Sydney Won
Australia New Zealand Brisbane Won
Australia New Zealand Perth Won
Australia New Zealand Adelaide Won
Australia West Indies Hobart Won
Australia West Indies Melbourne Won
Australia West Indies Sydney Won
Australia New Zealand Wellington Won

Warwick Armstrong was the first Australian captain to remain undefeated in his first ten Tests. Smith was just the second. Eight Test captains — in the rich 139-year history of the sport — have done the same since The Big Ship. After winning the first Test against New Zealand at Wellington recently, Smith became the 10th captain to remain undefeated in his first 10 Tests. However, Smith has 6 wins and 4 draws when compared to Armstrong’s 8 wins and 2 draws.

The upcoming second and final Test of the ongoing Trans-Tasman series in New Zealand will be Smith’s 11th Test as a skipper. If he goes on to draw or win it, he will break the 95-year-old record and become the first skipper to not lose in his first 11 Tests as a skipper. If Smith and co. are aware of this record, they surely will have the pressure to achieve it during the Christchurch Test, on the other hand, maybe the pressure is set to be more on the Black Caps’ camp, as it will be Brendon McCullum’s final international match.

Captains undefeated after 10 Tests:

Test skippers Country Results Time span
Warwick Armstrong Australia 8 wins, 2 draws 1920-1921
Steven Smith Australia 6 wins, 4 draws 2014-2016
MS Dhoni India 7 wins, 3 draws 2008-2009
Viv Richards West Indies 6 wins, 4 draws 1980-1986
Colin Cowdrey England 5 wins, 5 draws 1959-1961
Ray Illingworth England 5 wins, 5 draws 1969-1971
Mike Brearley England 5 wins, 5 draws 1977-1978
Sunil Gavaskar India 3 wins, 7 draws 1976-1979
Nari Contractor India 2 wins, 8 draws 1960-1962
Mike Smith England 1 win, 9 draws 1964-1965

The first Test witnessed some incredible bowling from the Australian attack despite being without the services of Mitchell Starc, and later in the game, Peter Siddle suffered back spasms and could not bowl in the second innings. Those hurdles did not stop Smith and co. from registering an innings win, picking all 20 wickets in the match.

A world record of going undefeated in first 11 Tests as skipper is important, but not as crucial as winning series in India or England

The second Test will be played at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval. New Zealand have played a solitary Test there. The fact that the last time New Zealand beat their neighbours in a Test at home was back in 1993 makes it worse for New Zealand going into the second Test. The current form of both sides also tilts the balance in Australia’s favour; they have been dominating in all the departments.

The upcoming few months will be a crucial phase in Smith’s Test career. Even if Smith goes on to win the Christchurch Test and break the 95-year-old record, he still has a long way to go ahead. Australia are set to tour India to defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy either in end-2016 or early 2017. The last time Australia toured India, they ended up getting whitewashed in the longest format. To prove his worth, Smith has to win, or at least return with honorable outcomes, from India (where they have not won since 2004-05) and England (their last series win came in 2001).

Under Ricky Ponting and Clarke, Australia’s performances in England ebbed somewhat. When they won in India, Adam Gilchrist was the stand-in captain. Although both led Australia to the ICC Cricket World Cup, they failed to win The Ashes in England. Only the likes of Joe Darling, Armstrong, Bill Woodfull, Richie Benaud, Mark Taylor and Waugh Sr were among the Australian skippers who won the away Ashes. A world record of going undefeated in first 11 Tests as skipper is important, but not as crucial as winning series in India or England!

(Sakshi Gupta, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy.” Her Twitter handle is @sakshi2929)