Who is the best batsman in the world? Some may say, Virat Kohli, some suggest AB de Villiers, while some may nominate Joe Root, but the majority will have Steve Smith’s name on the tip of their tongue. From a chubby leg-spinner to a top-order beast, Smith’s evolution as the best Test batsman has been irresistible. Smith showed signs of his excellence with the bat for the first time in 2013 against India, where he scored 92 and has never looked back since then.
Smith’s trigger movement to towards the off-stump while the ball is being delivered, makes him a solid leg side player. He likes to tease the leg-side field and pierces the gap with perfection. He is equally effective against pace and spin and can drive the ball for days. He is also a good player of the short ball, in fact, one of the best pullers of the red cherry.
Smith makes the bowlers bowl to him, if they keep pitching it outside off, he will keep letting it go. Eventually, the bowlers will be forced to bowl on stumps and this is when the runs will flow. This is the kind of technique that will help a batsman achieve tremendous success on difficult surfaces, and Smith has scored tons and tons of runs on difficult tracks riding on this formula.
No matter how tight the field is, he will always find a way to score runs, such has been the impact of Steve Smith. There have been questions raised about his unorthodox technique in the past, but Smith has always managed to silent his harshest critics with prolific runs column. Many believed, Smith’s unconventional technique may not survive for long, but aren’t we still watching him score those daddy hundreds? For the record, Smith averaged 81.85 in 2014, 73.70 in 2015, 71.93 in 2016 and 76.76 in 2017.
A batsman’s head is the heaviest part of the body, he needs to keep it still and focused while executing any stroke. This is when he will middle the ball. When Smith’s willow comes in contact with the ball, his head position is exactly in the line of the leather. Also, his magnificent hand-eye co-ordination only helps his game.
It is often said, technique is a servant, not the master. One just needs to find a way to score runs, a technique that he is more comfortable with, a technique that can help him get those runs. Smith’s records corroborate the above beliefs. Smith manipulates the field well, he is versatile and knows when to press the accelerator. When the going gets tough, Smith will work his way out, eventually. It’s close to impossible to tame this monster called ‘Smith’.
Australia had a terrible time in India, but Smith didn’t. There was clear daylight between Smith and his teammates. Of course, his run as a skipper was torrid, but his runs column were productive. He scored runs against the dominating Indian spinners in their own den. Yes, he had some luck riding in his favour at Pune, but isn’t it true that fortune only favours the brave?
Smith had 499 runs under his belt at a staggering average of 71.28 and three centuries in eight innings against India. He also did extremely well in Sri Lanka in 2016, scoring 247 runs at 41.16 in three games. Smith has scored runs around the globe, he averages 67.25 in South Africa, 131 in New Zealand, 43.50 in UAE, 141.50 in West Indies. The best part, he is equally dominating at home and on away venues; he averages 59.65 away and 68.65 at home.
Bangladesh is the only place, where his average is mediocre (29.75). In England, Smith averages 43.31 till date, but if we talk about his latest assignment out there, Smith has garnered 508 runs at 56.44 in 2015 Ashes. His game has only evolved with time, and oppositions are yet to figure out a game plan that can work him out.
In the ongoing series, Smith led his side from the front, with an example, with gigantic runs. Australia regained the Ashes by winning the first three games and Smith certainly played a huge role in this win. He is the highest run-scorer in the series so far with 604 runs in his basket. David Warner, the second on the list, is 219 runs behind him, which speaks volumes of the kind of impact Smith has had.
At Brisbane, he played a flawless innings under the pump to sail the Australian ship out of choppy waters. In fact, one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that it was Smith’s innings that turned the tide in Australia’s. He failed to fire at Adelaide, but his teammates stepped up and got the required runs. At Perth, he played one of the best innings of his Test career to help his side seal the series.
Come Melbourne, the Boxing Day Test, Smith once again showed nerves of steel and played with immense confidence to get another century in second innings. He has looked in complete command and control and seldom have English bowlers managed to trouble the genius.
By the time Smith is done with cricket, he will be hailed as one of the greatest cricketers to have played for Australia. He now has 23 Test tons, and joins the elite league of captains that have scored three tons in a single Ashes, and who knows what’s in the store for the final game? As of now, he continues to script records one after the other, and he does all of that with a gentle smile.