Steve Smith - The part-timer who transformed into Australia's leading light
Last week Steve Smith reached the pinnacle of Test Batting, overtaking from Kumara Sangakkara as the best batsman in the longer format of the game. For a person who started off as a bowler who could bat a bit, and possessed a batting average of 29 after 12 Tests back in 2013, it has been a miraculous turnaround. Smith is a perfect example of how believing in a talent of a cricketer can get you rich rewards in the long term.
Smith who was left out of the Test side in January 2011 to sort out his technique, only made a comeback for the India tour in March 2013. Although still not flawless technically, he is temperamentally fearless and backs his shot making instincts.
His shot selection has improved over the years as he has spent more and more time in the crease piling up 1391 runs in his last 8 Test innings with 6 centuries. He was initially weak against the short ball, but seems to have improved in that regard as well. A persistent fiddler who never keeps still at the crease, for most, he isn't pleasing on the eye. But all his antics on the crease have only made it difficult for the bowlers to bowl to him.
Cricket Australia's leap of faith
Steve Smith is a perfect example of why nurturing a young talent and allowing them to play with their natural flair is important. No doubt some may fall off the cliff, but most will prosper. And in Smith's case, Australian Cricket has done the same.
A country which traditionally believes in grinding its players in the domestic format before throwing them into the international stage, his selection came as a big surprise.With Smith, the selectors took a leap of faith against the grain of their usual system.
Smith has had an outstanding last 24 months, scoring heaps of runs and in the process crossing the 900 point ICC ranking barrier. He became only the 8th Australian batsman after Bradman (961), Ricky Ponting (942), Matthew Hayden (935), Doug Walters (922), Neil Harvey (921), Mike Hussey (921) and Michael Clarke (900) to achieve the rare landmark.
During this period, the man from Sydney became the first Australian to score hundreds in every match of a four-Test series and a century in each of his first three Tests as captain. In the build-up to the Ashes in England, Smith's score register from the last 12 Test innings read: 162*, 52*, 133, 28, 192, 14, 117, 71, 25, 5*, 199 and 54*.
His Test average stands at present in the high 50's, a figure topped by only one Australian to have played more than 15 Tests - Bradman. It is these numbers from the chubby right-hand batsman that has been one of the reasons for Australia’s return to dominance in Test cricket in the past couple of years.
Congratulations to Steve Smith for becoming the No.1 Test batsman in the world. pic.twitter.com/cvYVSTUNu5— Sportskeeda (@Sportskeeda) June 15, 2015
Australia in every way has unearthed a batsman that can be the backbone of their Test batting line-up for seasons to come. Rightly his captain Clarke recently introduces him at the Australian House as the best batsman in the world. Without doubt Smith has been the biggest turnaround story of this era, having proved that he is apt for all conditions, sessions and places.
He is in all probability a great in the making and with a Test average which has crept above 50, he will be the key to what might yet be Australia‘s decade of resurgence to the top of world cricket. And with his incredible purple patch showing no signs of stopping, he may well give some former Australian legends a run for their money statistically.