Superlative. Ingenious. Brilliant. A bit flawed too. Want more adjectives for Steve Smith?
Time is limited and you and I don’t have enough words in the dictionary to paint respect to one who commands an awful lot of it. Plus trouble is Shakespeare, Keats, Joyce, Shelly aren’t around so as to help us come up with more fashionable words.
Though, fact is, he’s not just Steve Smith.
For correction’s sake- it’s Steve Deverux Smith. And perhaps it’s only fair why Smith bears the middle name Devereux.
In biblical expression, it points to a motto- “Envy is the companion of virtue.”
For someone so virtuous at the art of batting, it’s envy that he usually inspires- does he not?
There’s sufficient proof.
774 runs in a single-edition of the Ashes, without requiring 5 Tests.
Scoring in excess of 1000 plus Test runs in four of his ten calendar years.
Averaging north of 70 in seven of ten years in Test cricket.
Averaging 72 with the bat against India and 65 against England, whilst striking 4,500 of his 7450 Test runs against two of the big three in the game.
There’s a chance some eyes may just pop out if one were to run past his numbers against the West Indies.
An average of 165, courtesy 200 Test runs from 7 innings, during which he remained unbeaten on four accounts.
Sinking in all of this is akin to the arduous challenge of ingesting an iceberg.
Even Titanic couldn’t do it.
But Steve Smith is a run machine of a different kind; a creature of habit, whose penchant for run scoring has already drawn comparisons with The Don.
That should spike the adrenaline in any human body reminding one of just how much has already been achieved. But our man is different, he just carries on.
And Smith, despite amassing 12,000 runs with 38 centuries, is only 32.
He’s the wine that’s bound to get better.
And observationally speaking, the eagerness and nervy manner with which he walks out to bat, having done so already on 289 previous occasions still transcends TV sets and hand-held devices.
When a Lara walked out to bat, you anticipated flair accompanying runs. With Tendulkar‘s arrival, you forethought about heaps of classy runs.
Kallis and Dravid slowed us down, reminding us that good things came to those who waited.
But Smith tells us there’s something artsy about leaving the cricket ball.
Where else have you seen a batsman make headlines with the way he doesn’t play at something?
Not offering a shot is deemed a boring sight. In Smith-land though, it’s a captivating one.
Forget the off drive and the mash-up of flick-meets-glance that only he can execute, he’s made leaving the ball a talking point. Quite like the DRS or Mankading.
Last summer, in England, Windies opener John Campbell was found doing a Steve Smith-leave.
A quarter of a year back, Kraigg Brathwaite was doing it in Bangladesh.
Everywhere else, bowlers know when Smith does it- and he does it deploying a range of facial expressions that would befit a part in a Tarantino or Scorsese film- he’s only settling in.
That big runs are on their way. That carnal destruction could follow.
And despite playing 113 ODI innings, he’s not exactly trounced the opponents, having hit 11 centuries. Despite striking more fifties on away tours than amid home comfort- it appears he can do a lot more.
It’s special to hit a hundred, but more so when you do in your rival’s land. In the final 2020 ODI at Bangalore, the glory belonged to India, the winners of the series, and their ‘Hitman’ Rohit for his ton.
But early tempo in a high-scoring saga was set by Steve Smith, who arrived with his team 18-1, soon nosediving to 46-2.
For a batsman who walked in the fourth over and exited only after the 47th, Smith struck perhaps his most glorious ODI hundred in the sub-continent.
But little was reserved for the man who’d also struck 98 at Rajkot, a couple of days before. Smith scored far more than Kohli in Kohli’s own backyard.
But didn’t rub his victory on India’s face wildly like a fame-hungry wannabe would.
And true to being a batsman for the big occasion, arguably speaking, there’s more value to Smith’s 56 than his 164, the latter his highest ODI score.
Under the night lights of a sparkling MCG, venue of the ’15 WC finals, Smith remained unbeaten on 56, the third-highest score of the match, but importantly a knock that revived Australia after early jitters dented by Henry and Boult.
But you don’t really stamp your authority on the game unless you do something remarkable in Test cricket.
It’s where Smith has lorded like few of his era have. An average of 61 should draw a wry smile even from the most poker-face geniuses of his former generation- the Waugh brothers.
That his Ashes average measures north of 100 would perhaps have compelled Benaud or even the great Don to shake Smith’s hand in pure admiration.
Moreover, he seems a bat who can stick around for long. Remember WACA, 2017 and the 578-minute stay at the crease for 239?
Even when Archer troubled him with the deliberate bouncers playing the part of Holding to Smith’s Brian Close in modern era, the Aussie wasn’t left demoralised. The English found a way to push aside a batsman who was seeming hard to dislodge, but by then he’d already made 92 from a 264-minute stay at the crease, the highest by an Australian in the game.
But no great thing was ever achieved without hitting the lows. Just that in Smith’s case, he indulged in self-harm when as leader of the team at the 2018 Cape Town Test, he was found guilty of ball-tampering.
To a side whose DNA comprises as much cricket as oxygen, this was a sacrilege and the very-revered Steve Smith went onto become the much reviled
Yet, the greats don’t stay low; they rise.
Smith immediately responded, post abdicating the captaincy, of course, by thudding 965 Test runs in 2019. It took him just 13 innings to recreate the magic.
Though purely for furthering the bastion of greatness that’s Australian cricket- when one Steve hung his boots- the greatest captain that there’s ever been- glad we are that another emerged.
And in an absurdly magical and hitherto unseen way became one of the world’s most vaunted bats, having surprisingly begun as a leg-spinner who cared little for batting.
There’s high expectation from Marnus Labuschagne, KL Rahul, Shai Hope to follow the Steve Smith route- amass a staggering accumulation of numbers.
But they’re still many miles away from embracing the Steve Smith-ness- a brand of batting that requires you to embrace incessant madness, self-control, and without a doubt- unforgettable shuffle and trigger movement that can’t be found in any coaching manual.
Enjoy your 32nd Mr. Smith.