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by Saksham Mishra & Cricket World Sunday 10 May 2020
That's right, Smith was selected as a leg spinner who could also provide a few handy runs down the order. In fact, the batsman made his Test debut as a leg spinner and batted as low as number 8.
Australia was looking at him as the successor of Shane Warne. To them, he was of Warne's ilk with blonde hair and zipping leg spin, who would go on to terrorize the batsmen around the world, as Warne had done for so long.
In his first World Cup match against Pakistan, Smith batted at number 9 and got off to the most horrific start that a batsman can imagine. He was run-out without facing a ball and so began the journey of World Cups for a cricketer who would go on to become one of the most celebrated batsmen of all-time.
It was the last match of the Super 8s in the 2010 World T20 and West Indies were facing Australia. Michael Clarke handed over the ball to Steve Smith in the seventh over, just after the end of the powerplay. West Indies were at 40/2 and the game was well poised.
Smith gave away six runs from his first over and dismissed Narsingh Deonarine in his next over as the batsman was holed out at deep midwicket. In his last over, Smith broke the back of the West Indian batting order, dismissing two big players in Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy on consecutive deliveries.
Smith bowed a proper leg spinner that beat Pollard in flight as the big batsman lunged forward. Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin collected the ball and stumped him. On the very next delivery, Smith tossed up another one as Sammy went for the drive but the ball reached only as far as Smith and he was caught and bowled.
Within a matter of two deliveries, Smith almost killed any hope of West Indies to make a match out of it and reduced the team to 79/7.
Smith did not get to bat - as was quite often the case in the first few of his international games - but received the Man of the Match award for his exceptional bowling figures of 4-20-3, which pulled the match decisively in Australia's favour.
It might seem funny now but Smith had jumped the queue and was now ahead of Nathan Hauritz in the Australian pecking order. The team was lauded for choosing an attacking option of a leg spinner rather than going for an offie. In all seriousness, Australia were banking on Smith to be the successor of Warne.
Amid all this, his batting which was still his stronger suit, was getting lost somewhere. Even then, Smith had played 13 first-class matches and boasted an average of 56.22 with 4 first-class centuries. He had also contributed well with the bat in one of the World T20 games that year when he scored a quick 27 off 18 balls against Bangladesh after Australia were struggling at 65-6.
But the fact that he batted so low down the batting order did not give him enough opportunities to prove his mettle. Going by the numbers, his spin stood out as the youngster had picked up 29 wickets at 16.27 by then.
In fact, Smith finished as Australia's highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 11 wickets from 7 games at an impressive average of 14. 82.
Within a matter of five years, Steve Smith not only upped his game to emerge as the top Australian batsman but also took over the mantle of captaincy from Michael Clarke.
He is now the number one ranked Test batsman and has scored 7227 runs from just 73 Tests at a jaw-dropping average of 62.84. One can only imagine what he would have grown into as a cricketer had he continued on the path of his zippy leg spinners. Thank God, he didn't become the next Shane Warne.
© Cricket World 2020