Under the SKanner: Steven Smith
Steven Smith began his career as a leg-spinner who could bat. Over the years, his dominance with the bat across all formats has made him one of the best batsmen in the world.
Smithy, as he is fondly called by his teammates, made his ODI debut in 2010. In the last seven years, he has amassed 3247 runs at an average of 43.44, with 8 centuries and 18 fifties.
Post the retirement of Michael Clarke following the 2015 ICC World Cup which Australia went on to win, Smith became captain of the ODI side.
In his first 38 matches, he managed to score only 477 runs at a poor average of 20.48. However, post 2014, after he was elevated to the number 3 position, he has scored 2711 runs at a commendable average of 54.22.
With him completing 100 ODIs recently, it’s a good time to analyse Smith’s ODI career thus far:
His wide array of shots, both against fast and spin bowlers
What would amaze most people who observe Smith is the wide array of shots he possesses in his armoury. He has developed his game well and now has a shot for almost any ball delivered at him.
Despite his unusual stance, he makes batting look easy. The extra-cover drive when the ball is pitched up, and the on drive, which he plays so well, both on the front and back foot, are pleasing on the eye. His biggest strength would be his ability to attack the short ball with ease.
On a positive note, like his predecessor Michael Clarke, Smith uses his feet brilliantly against spinners. His ability to use his wrist effectively while he faces spinners is another big positive.
His unorthodox technique and ability to play the short ball so well
Smith has got a very unorthodox technique. His strange-looking stance can put off many bowlers. What could have become his biggest weakness has, in fact, become a big strength.
Like most Australian batsmen, he is extremely good on the back foot. His ability to play the cut shot and pull shot off a ball pitched on the same length is praise-worthy.
His stance allows him to play really well on the back foot, especially short balls. His shuffle back and the hook or pull shot are among his finer shots. He uses this not only as an attacking option but also to nudge the ball around and rotate the strike.
He is also very strong off the pads. His ability to play the flick or the on-drive with ease is a big plus. This comes in handy when he plays spin bowlers, as he comes down the wicket and pushes the ball into the leg-side.
He plays away from his body which leaves him susceptible to the moving ball
At the start of his innings, irrespective of the pitch conditions, Smith is a bit unsure and plays away from his body. If the ball is moving about, he is prone to playing a false shot outside the off-stump, leading to his dismissal.
This is a pattern that every team has tried to take advantage of, keeping two slips. On many occasions, he has nicked out-swingers to the keeper or the slips. His unorthodox technique gets in the way at times.
One of the main reasons for him not converting starts into bigger scores in his ODI career so far is his vulnerability outside the off-stump, which he should be looking at improving.
His unorthodox technique can sometimes be a weakness
Smith's unorthodox technique and awkward looking stance can sometimes land him in trouble. With his very high backlift, he becomes an easy target for left-arm fast bowlers who swing the ball into the stumps. He is also an LBW candidate, if balls are bowled at pace.
Another area where he lacks is his inability to play conventional shots with the bat facing downwards. Whenever he tries to play a cover-drive or flick the ball to the leg-side, on most occasions it's hit in the air, allowing oppositions to place cachers accordingly.
He has crafted his game around this unorthodox technique and has done well so far, but at times it can land him in serious trouble.