Steven Smith: The Prodigy Spinner to World-Dominating batsman

In the entire history of cricket, there will only be a handful of cricketers whose journey is perhaps as interesting as Steven Smith. His career has perhaps had more twists and turns, and ups and downs than an average Bollywood movie.

The Rookie Leg-Spinner

Steven Smith started off as leg-spinner who described himself as a ‘fun’ batter. As a batsman, his technique was all over the place. He’d poke wide balls, his stance wasn’t text-book style and he’d come front foot very often.

He first got into the limelight when he finished as the second-highest wicket-taker in 2007–2008’s Big Bash. His bowling wasn’t the best, but on his best days, he would do miracles. As a batsman, he came in the 8th position just ahead of Mitchell Johnson.

2007-2008 Big Bash: Top wicket-takers

Some good spells warranted his selection in the Australia U-19 team for 2008 World Cup in which he scored 114 runs and took seven wickets in four matches.

Although his performances were great, inconsistency often cost him a spot in the playing XI in every team he played. Much was not expected from him as a batsman, and as a bowler, he’d often leak runs.

That’s when a mentoring session from Shane Warne helped him. “This bloke will make it big as an Aussie player. He’ll make a great bowler”, Warnie remarked. Even Sydney Morning Herald termed him the heir to Shane Warne.

Warne’s personal mentoring session helped Smith as his bowling saw a great improvement. His batting too being decent, he was picked in the Australia squad for both T20s and ODIs in 2010 as a leg spinner. Although he didn’t get an explosive start to his career, decent performances earned him the coveted spot in 2010 World Cup squad for Australia. Australia finished runners up in that tournament. Smith took 11 wickets in seven matches at an average of 14.81 to finish as the joint-second-highest wicket-taker of the tournament.

Embed from Getty Images

The Budding All-Rounder

To take the best advantage of his form, Australia picked him in Tests too, as a leg spinner. Although he didn’t bowl well, he made an impact with his batting. So, in the next series, he was picked as a bowling all-rounder. Although he got starts, he couldn’t notch up big scores and he was axed from the team.

He was consistently in and out of the limited-overs squads and wasn’t even being considered for the Test squad. He noticed the lack of proper batsmen in the Australian team and started focussing more on his batting. He then started piling up runs in domestic cricket. So much batting meant that his focus on bowling reduced.

The Wannabe Batsman

Two years later, he was recalled in the Australian squad for India’s tour, this time as a batsman. And he started putting up decent scores, but again not scores worth a place in the squad. He was dropped again.

This time, good performance as the vice-captain of Australia A team brought him back into the squad as a backup batsman given Michael Clarke’s fitness concerns. But he had to play an impactful inning to justify his selection, and his maiden test century at The Oval was what helped it.

He now cemented his spot in all the formats of the game with consistent performances as a batsman and started moving up the ladder in the batting order. He came in 6th, then 5th and finally his much favoured 4th position.

The Upcoming Leader

Embed from Getty Images

He was then appointed as a vice-captain to Michael Clarke in Tests and George Bailey in ODIs and T20s. The Australian newspapers already started terming him as the ‘future Australian captain’. He was carefully treading the footsteps of his mentor, Clarke.

Steven Smith first captained the ODI team when Bailey was banned in a match for slow over-rate. And that was his first success as a captain. And after some great performances in Tests, he became the second-youngest player ever to reach the number 1 ICC Test batsmen ranking and just the eighth Australian to do so.

The World Dominator

A few months later, he was made the captain of the team across all formats after Clarke’s abrupt retirement and Bailey’s oust from the team. He started dominating the world with his performances. His captaincy was earning laurels. England, India, New Zealand, no matter what the team was, he made big scores. Home or overseas, putting up a target or chasing, Tests or ODIs, no matter what the situation was, he was just sensational.

Martin Crowe described Steven Smith as one of the Fab-4 batsmen in the world along with Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli and Joe Root. To keep it short, he was living a dream.

The Country’s Disgrace

Embed from Getty Images

But all of it came to an end when he was found guilty of ball-tampering in the 2018 Test series against South Africa. He along with David Warner was banned from all international and domestic cricket for 12 months starting from 29 March 2018. He was also debarred from consideration for any team leadership role for an additional 12 months. His IPL contract was terminated for that season.

All the newspapers were quick to dismiss him. The media published all kinds of negative articles on him, particularly, the British media mocked him a lot. All the senior Australian players said he did the wrong thing. In short, all the respect he earned in years was declining sharply. Things were spiralling down for Steven Smith.

The Comeback King

Fighters don’t give up easily, do they? And Smith was a fighter. Exactly 12 months later, he made his comeback in the Australian World Cup team and scored 379 runs at an average of 37.90, including four fifties, in the tournament.

And that year’s Ashes was even better. He finished the series with 774 runs, by far the most on either side. He made three centuries and averaged a whopping 110.57. In the first match, he was met with an extremely loud audience who were mocking him but his performance silenced them, and at the end of the series, he received a standing ovation from the audience!

Embed from Getty Images

Now, Steve Smith is one of the finest players in ODIs and T20s and arguably the best players in Tests across the world. He loves demolishing the bowlers with his brilliant strokeplay and hand-eye coordination. He is one of the best batsmen in the world and Aussies have labeled him to be the ‘best after Bradman’.

From being then called the heir to Shane Warne to now called ‘the best after Bradman’, that’s a journey few can boast of.

Credits:-

Feature Image:- NAPARAZZI / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

One thought on “Steven Smith: The Prodigy Spinner to World-Dominating batsman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *