Steve Smith’s twin hundreds in the opening Ashes Test was an example of what mental fortitude means after having gone through an extremely rough phase, Australian pace legend Glenn McGrath said on Wednesday.
Smith scored 144 and 142 in Australia’s 251-run win against England at the Edgbaston in his comeback Test after being banned for a year due to ball tampering scandal.
“You have to go out there and let the bat do the talking. It’s been 16 or 17 months since what happened in South Africa, it’s time to be left in the past. The crowd was giving Smith a pretty hard time. For him to come out there and perform shows the mental strength he has,” McGrath, the head of MRF Pace Foundation told reporters during an event.
McGrath believes that it was the hunger to succeed having lost out a year of Test cricket that was evident in his batting.
“He (Smith) just went out there and looked at ease, he looked like he had so much more time than anyone else in the whole match. That episode made him a lot hungrier. Those were couple of special innings, they meant a lot to him and the rest of the team,” he added.
“He will be pretty special by the end of his career, he has got an average of more than 60. He is not your conventional, technically-correct batsman. He is one of the very few batsmen who can adapt his game according to the conditions on offer,” McGrath felt.
McGrath said the Aussies team selection for the first Test against England was probably a ‘horses for courses’ approach and he expects Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood to play a part in the remaining games.
On the comparison between Smith and the Indian skipper Virat Kohli, McGrath agreed that they are the two best players in the world but entirely different in their approach.
“They are the world’s best at the moment. In the new breed, it used to be these two, Joe Root and Kane Williamson. Root is not quite his old self, while Williamson is quality. If you just pick Smith and Kohli, they are two totally different batsmen,” he added.
For a talent like Rohit Sharma, he still has some time left and McGrath doesn’t see why he can’t translate his white ball form into the longer format.
“Rohit is a class player. I have always been surprised why his longer version stats have not been as good as his ODI numbers. He has got good technique, seems to have a good temperament. He is a quality player. I see no reason why he shouldn’t be successful in Test cricket too,” he added.
About the forthcoming Test series between India and West Indies, which will be part of the World Test Championship, the Aussie great said the West Indies won against England earlier this year but will need to be at their best to challenge India.
“India are a quality team. I know West Indies beat England in a Test series earlier this year which surprised me a bit. Think West Indies are inconsistent in ODI cricket. Sometimes West Indies are a hit and miss team, you saw it in the World Cup. They started very well and then fizzled out. The fact that they beat England in the West Indies earlier this year is a good sign.. but they have to play very well to compete with India,” he added.
McGrath said he quite liked the idea of players wearing names and numbers on their white flannels in Test matches.
“I actually don’t mind it. It’s good especially for people who are getting interested in the game. Some of the players stand out (even without numbers), but others not so much.
McGrath’s compatriots Brett Lee and Adam Gilchrist had criticised the innovation by calling it “ridiculous” and “rubbish” respectively.