What’s the story?
Legendary Australian batsman Ricky Ponting has heaped praise on Steven Smith’s attitude towards the game and declared that the 27-year-old has the potential to be the greatest batsman to have ever played cricket since the iconic Sir Donald Bradman.
“If Smithy keeps maintaining what he's doing now for another 100 Tests, then he probably will end up being a better player than me. He's not doing much wrong at the moment, is he? I know he's got great passion and a great drive to be the best player he can be and probably the best player the world has ever seen, which is a great attitude to have,” Ponting told News Ltd.
On similarities between himself and the current Australian skipper, the 42-year-old felt, “I wanted to be the best player in the world as well and I wanted to be able to sustain it for a long period of time. And that's what really separates the great players, how long you can actually sustain a high level of excellence.”
Smith has been in sensational form over the last few years. Currently the top ranked batsman in Tests, he has accumulated 4888 runs from 51 matches at an astounding average of 60.34 including 18 centuries and 20 fifties. Among all batsmen with at least 4500 runs in the game’s long and illustrious history, only Bradman (6996 runs at 99.94) and Herbert Sutcliffe (4555 runs at 60.73) have a better average than him.
The heart of the matter
Interestingly, Smith started his career as a promising leg-spinner who could bat lower down the order. It was Ponting who gave him his maiden Test bow during the 2010 Lord’s fixture against Pakistan. Batting at number eight, he scored 13 runs from both innings and sent down as many as 21 overs.
During the 2013 Ashes in the United Kingdom, Ponting had surprisingly picked Smith as the future captain. Gradually evolving into a top-notch batsman with his own idiosyncratic technique, the right-hander succeeded Michael Clarke as Australia’s captain. His penchant for rising up to difficult situations was evident in the recent home summer where he led from the front to oversee a major upheaval in the team’s batting lineup.
Giving a fitting riposte to those who had questioned his ability to play on Indian pitches, Smith scored a stellar 202-ball 109 on a viciously turning track in Pune and led Australia to an unexpected 333-run victory. He will be eager to carry his form on what could likely be a much better batting surface in the second Test at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
Despite being armed with a unique technique which is in sharp contrast to those usually seen in the game, Smith’s remarkable efficiency can be identified from his eye-catching numbers. If he maintains his consistency over the next five years or so, there is no telling what he could achieve. We are indeed witnessing a truly great career in the making.