How Steve Smith copied batting tricks from Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to become successful
The Australian captain reveals how he borrowed styles of some of his contemporaries to rule red-ball cricket.
Steve Smith's quirky style of play has garnered immense attention over the years and has catapulted him to the top of Tests batting charts, but there's more to his idiosyncratic technique than meets the eye.
In an all-reveal to cricket.com.au, Steve Smith has conceded that he has borrowed technical aspects of batting from his contemporaries Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and AB de Villiers to succeed throughout the world in differing conditions.
"I look at some of the best players around the world and sometimes I do try and bat like them. I just try and learn, and these guys are the best players in the world for a reason.
"So you try and get whatever you can out of them."
Here's what he learned from examining each of the bigwigs in world cricket to chart his own identity:
During the Test series between Australia and New Zealand in 2015, Steve Smith, in a bid to gain an advantage over his neighbors, proclaimed to his teammates that he will employ some of Kane Williamson's trademark off-side strokes to find success.
Smith tried to mimic Williamson's gentle nudges and deft late cuts between point and slips to take the juice out of a swinging delivery, and was largely successful during that series, although he admitted that his general style of play was contrary to the one he was trying to borrow, resulting him in chopping the ball onto his own stumps.
Steve Smith's litmus test was clearly the India tour, and although the side could not get past the final frontier, Smith shone amidst the ruins, barring the now-infamous 'brain-fade moment'.
Needing to do his best to fight it out on India's slow and low tracks, with the spinners running riot, Smith analyzed Kohli's batting style and took the best bits out of it, merging them with his own.
The result was that Smith opened his grip a bit more: in India, owing to the slow and low nature of tracks, the frequency, and the possibility of getting caught behind off nicks is low compared to South African/English pitches.
As a result, Smith made sure that he was using more areas on the ground and making his strokes more dynamic, instead of staying put in his own style of play.
That includes the Kohli classic: the cover drive that is played with a whip of the wrists, more like a 'hockey corner', using the bottom hand more to guide the ball and gain more power on the shot.
AB de Villiers:
The South African modern great is famous for pre-empting his strokes and has perfected nearly every shot in the book (and beyond). His leg-side play his marveled at, and Steve Smith hasn't shied from incorporating his famed heave to get the results.
For deliveries that come at an angle and are directed towards the body, Smith worked on planting his back foot and guiding the ball towards square leg.
Why the flipside of these adopted traits include a muddled batting approach and a confusion in what to implement when, Smith has been able to get out of a minor blip, where he, self-admittedly, forgot how to exactly grip the bat.
"I actually forgot how I like to hold the bat when I'm in Australia the last time I came back, so it might work for a while but it takes a bit of getting used to", he admitted.
Smith's borrowed masterclass highlights how crucial improvisation is in cricket, almost nullifying the much-hyped importance of a water-tight technique right out of the manual.