Test cricket has existed for the longest time, it is rightfully hailed the toughest of formats – for it requires grit, skills and utmost dedication to perform at the highest level. Only 35 players in history of Test cricket have scored more runs than Steve Smith (7645 runs) but there is none averaging more than the Australian batter in the top 40 run-scorers in the longest format.
Only one – Don Bradman – averages more than Smith in the longest format (batters with minimum of 50+ Tests). And Smith has just played 79 Tests, has scored over 7645 runs and only gets dismissed after 112.1 deliveries, that’s eight-best in the longest format. That’s Steven Peter Devereux Smith, the leg-spinner turned batting all-rounder who has turned into one of the best batters in world cricket.
There are batters, excellent skippers and then there is an elite list of cricketers – who have excelled with the bat as a skipper. Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Mahela Jayawardene, Sir Garry Sobers, Graham Gooch and the list goes on but Smith’s incredible stature as a leader is unparalleled.
*For a generation that hasn’t been blessed with watching Sir Donald Bradman bat, lead the side, there is Smith.*
Smith and the others
Since his return to international cricket, specifically Test cricket, Smith’s returns have been astonishing yet it has been frustrating. The lack of Test cricket for Australia, be it them not touring South Africa, Bangladesh or be it no team has toured Down Under since India, it has resulted in not much red-ball game for Smith.
Despite that, only four cricketers – Joe Root, Marnus Labuschagne, Ben Stokes and Rohit Sharma – have scored more runs than the Australian in the last two years. And it is only fitting that his protégé and dear friend, Labuschagne averages more than the former Australian skipper. His conversion rate – 33.3% has taken a hit only during the series against India.
Only Labuschagne has faced more deliveries before dismissal than Smith, which in simple sight shows his level of domination in Test cricket. There have been players, great players before Smith and there will exist players who aim for greatness after Smith but the bar that the right-hander has raised has elevated Test cricket.
In Adelaide, Smith walked out at a tricky point on the first day, with a responsibility to bat under the twilight. Anderson, Broad, Robinson and Woakes – all bowled in tandem with the new pink ball yet the result was a resurgent batting display from the 32-year-old.
Smith’s lowly conversation rate during the last two years doesn’t account to the lack of runs, he has been dismissed six times in the region from 80-99 runs. The latest entrant to the board, his 93 against England in Adelaide. But what’s special about him or the innings?
One Smith, fire a gun as a leader
Ever since the 32-year-old has been elevated to the top of the order, there is constantly a word of caution for the long list of blooming cricketers – don’t aim to be Smith. Smith isn’t your normal batter, his batting technique is highly uncanny, which if you go on to incorporate in your batting, might result in your downfall.
But Smith is just built different. His grim lean of patch with the bat came on the back of the New Zealand bowlers, in particular, Neil Wagner identifying the weakness with short deliveries. India went a step ahead and employed a heavy leg-side trap for the right-hander.
The dry patch lasted two Tests, just TWO. In the third, in Sydney, he scored a century, he proved that he was a leader despite not having the official position. He showed the world how much batting means to him. Smith is a perennial offender.
In Adelaide, England tested him, constantly and consistently: peppering the short deliveries. But he stood calm, tall and most importantly – composed to put the ball away. A swagger of his own, Smith stayed at the crease, swiveled and stayed on top of every short delivery that came his way. 49 of the 93 runs he scored came off the backfoot, with a control of 81%, showing skills when tested.
He raises the bar to a level that has spoilt Test cricket and fans.
As a Test captain, Smith averages the most, leads the side from the front, has scored 3752 runs and has only been dismissed once across 61 innings without scoring a run. During his knock against England, he also went past Steve Waugh’s tally of 3714 runs as Australia's captain to be the fifth highest run scorer as captain.
Smith isn’t a Test batsman, he is a cheat code, the cheat code that you often desperately want to beat the final boss in a console game.
Only 13 cricketers have scored more runs than him as a Test captain, showing why he is one of the best in the game. In the absence of Pat Cummins, the responsibility was Smith’s shoulders. As he walked off, raising his bat, it wasn’t just the bat he raised, it was the level of his dominance and the metric for the batters that he raised so effortlessly.
*A Smith blows the format into Smithereens.*