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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Steve Smith is born - unorthodoxy meets brilliance

Australia's Steve Smith
©Reuters
 

June 2, 1989 - When Steve Smith was banned for 12 months in the wake of the Newlands ball tampering scandal, many feared that he might never be the batsman he was. An elbow surgery, multiple ups and downs and one year later, Smith was back in the thick of things.

 

He first scored 379 runs in the 2019 World Cup with a couple of knocks that dug the team out of trouble and followed it up with a 774-run Ashes which forced world cricket into accepting his sheer brilliance.

It is rather remarkable for a player who started his cricketing journey as a leg-spinner and used to bat at number 8 to become the best batsman in the country and perhaps, the entire word within half a decade.

Smith had most of his weird batting antics even when he began his international career but his movement on the batting crease was not in harmony, which often led to his downfall. However, Smith worked hard on his unorthodox technique and turned his weakness into a strength.

 

Smith continues to dazzle not only numerous bowlers but pundits and commentators across the board with how he manages to score so successfully and consistently with the technique that has - having little in common with cricket's metaphorical book, except the balance.

“With my general stance where my back foot is going to almost off stump, or may be even outside at stages, I know that anything outside my eyeline isn’t hitting the stumps,” Smith explains his unorthodox technique. "For me, you shouldn’t get out if the ball is not hitting the stumps, so that is just a trick from me when I first started doing it, just limiting the ways I get out."

Bowlers find the temptation to ping him on the pads, right in front of the sticks, too hard to resist and keep bowling straight. It is seldom that a ball manages to hit his pads, but even if it does once in a blue moon, Smith is happy to take that risk.

“Sometimes, I get trapped in front but I’m okay with that at stages, knowing that if it is outside my eyeline, I don’t need to try and play the ball, I can just leave that,” he says.

Steve Smith is not only part of cricket's Fab Four alongside Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root, but is probably the best of the lot as far as the the oldest format of the game is concerned. Smith averages more than 60 in Test cricket with 7227 runs from just 73 matches at just 30 years of age.

Many believe that he has the potential of reaching close to Sir Don Bradman's numbers. No matter how outlandish the idea may seem, it is tough to argue with Smith's career graph constantly on a rise.

In the ongoing World Test Championship as well, he holds the second spot among the top run getters, behind team mate Marnus Labuschagne, with 1028 runs from just 14 innings at an average of 73.42 with three centuries, five half-centuries and the best of 211.

White ball cricket is not his forte, but Smith's numbers are pretty good in those formats of the game as well. He averages 42.46 in ODIs with a strike rate of 85 + including 9 centuries and 25 half-centuries. In T20I cricket as well, he has an average almost touching 30 with a strike rate of 130+. Pretty decent for a batsman who plays the anchor's role more often than not.

A natural leader, Smith was banned from taking over any leadership role for two years after the sandpaper-gate controversy. But with him being eligible to become captain from March 2020 onwards, the day perhaps is not far when Smith is reappointed Australia's captain in all the three formats. 

 

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