Of the many batting legends the cricket world has seen since the inception of the beautiful game, Steven Smith was perhaps the most unlikely candidate to achieve any form of greatness. Drafted into the team a decade back as a leggie who could bat a bit, Steven was not seen as a cricketer with exceptional potential with the bat. Very few will remember that in the year 2010 in which he debuted, he was the second-highest wicket-taker in the ICC World Twenty20 Competition held in West Indies with a tally of 11 wickets in 7 matches at an impressive average of 14.11.
Smith made his Test debut in the same year and after modest performances against Pakistan and England in the Ashes Series 2010-11, he was dropped from the Test squad for a couple of years. Critics never liked his unorthodox batting style, impatient body language and childlike attitude on the field. He was stamped average and written off. Bang!
2013 saw the rise of a new Steven Smith. Rejection had solidified his morose stances, mockery had cemented his grit and the scar of being tagged average had metamorphosed the impatient kid to a man of purpose, determination, and intent. The critics had to eat a humble pie. And the world embraced Steven Peter Devereux Smith, arguably the best test batsman of his generation.
Smith’s life, like his batting technique, has not been unblemished. The height of the chequered career was in 2018 when he was banned for a year by the Australian Board of Cricket in the aftermath of the sandpaper scandal. Anyone of his stature would have put a full stop there or would end up being average after making a comeback. See what Warner and Bancroft, his accomplices of the incident are doing now. But the brief hiatus of solitude, dejection, and grief again got the best out of him. And he was back. With a bang again! Against the mighty World Champions on their home turf.
Smith is just over thirty now. He debuted when he was barely twenty-one. But effectively he had a test career of just five years, considering the ban and the earlier omission. He already has twenty-six hundreds in his kitty in the longer version of the game, a batting average of 65 in test matches and the number one rank in test batting. Do not forget, his performances in the shorter formats, too have been impressive and over the years he has been the best Aussie batsman in those formats as well. He even had ICC Test batting rating of 947, bettered only by the greatest of all time Sir Don Bradman seven decades earlier.
Yes, he has flaws in his batting approach. He invents new shots hitherto undefined in the grammar book of cricket. He seldom plays a shot that the critics will give a standing ovation to. But there lies his greatness. His grit has overcome all the earthly challenges posed on the cricket field, from ban to rejection, from concussion to depression. He is a fighter and knows how to combat the forces in operation, even by not conforming to the rules of victory. He may not be the best technician, but who cares when he is the best magician who breaks record after record with the magic willow wand in his firm arms. All hail the champ- The King Smith.