Getting a place in Australian national cricket team as a right-arm leg spinner, then having the opportunity to bat up the order and eventually seizing the tag of ‘best since Don Bradman’ – Steven Smith has brought about what many cricketers end up their careers dreaming off.
It all started in the year 2010 when Steven Peter Devereux Smith sporting jersey number 49 at his back debuted in all three formats of international cricket. His induction in the side was as a right-arm leg spinner who can play some handy knocks down the order.
Trouble for the Australian team and a golden opportunity for Smith
The young Aussie got the chance to play for Australia in a big clash i.e. the Ashes early in his career. He performed modestly in 2010-11 Ashes series, but was not a regular face in the Australian side. After a wait of two long years, he was called on to participate in the third and fourth Test match against India in 2013 at Mohali.
His inclusion in the side came as a result of an unusual instance i.e. after ‘four players were dropped for not doing the homework’. This unprecedented instance turned out to be an opportunity in disguise for Steven Smith. He grabbed the opportunity with open hands and scripted a 92-run knock in the first innings of the third Test, but was not lucky enough to save Australia from an unforgettable whitewash from India.
Later on, he was called on to participate in the Ashes 2013 and he made the most out of the opportunity as he produced two impressive centuries and also won Man of the Match award in the third Test, which eventually helped Australia whitewash the series by 5-0 and seize the urn.
The upsurge of Steven Smith as ‘Numero uno’ in Tests
Steve Smith celebrates his century in Birmingham. (Photo Source: Twitter)
In the year 2014, India visited Australia to play a 4 match Test series in which Smith exhibited his glorious skills and delivered a century in each of all four Test matches. With his awe-inspiring performance, he registered a record-high average of 128.16 in the series and was also adjudged as the Man of the Series.
After scripting this historic performance, Smith was a regular face in the Australian side and got a permanent place as the main batter for his side. Meanwhile, he performed skillfully in ODIs as well. He continued his sublime form in WC 2015 and scored the most number of runs for his side in the entire tournament which eventually helped Australia to lift the Cup.
After taking the WC home, it was time to compete against West Indies in a two match Test series. Smith performed brilliantly in the second Test of the series and was heading towards a double ton but, eventually ended up missing his double ton by a single run. After the conclusion of the series, Smith became the second- youngest number one player in Test cricket, the youngest one being Indian great Sachin Tendulkar.
After a series win against West Indies, the confident Aussies had to compete in a big-ticket clash- The Ashes series against old rivals England. England was geared up to regain the trophy which they indeed did with a 3-2 score. However, Smith registered a double ton at Lord’s and scored two centuries in the whole series.
The loss in Ashes was followed by the retirement of Aussie captain Michael Clarke and then, after impressing selectors, Smith was given the responsibility to lead the Kangaroos and David Warner took over as the vice-captain.
Smith’s record as the captain is stupendous, he has led his team to win almost half the times they stepped on the field. With captaincy, 2015 turned out to be an even more spectacular year for Smith as “he was honored with Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, ICC Test Player of the year award, Allan Border medal, Australian ODI Player of the Year and was also featured in ICC Test and ODI team of the year”.
Fast forward to 2017-18, the arch-rivals Australia and England played in the Ashes series. With a century in the first Test, he became the third quickest to reach the 21st century and got his 22nd century in the last Test only, which he further converted into a double ton and was also his maiden double century as captain.
Smith’s performance was bang on and unsurprisingly, he was adjudged the Man of the Series. Australia under Smith’s captaincy triumphed over England and won the Ashes 4-0. When the baggy green cap was handed to Smith for the first time, very few would have thought that this young talent will turn out to be Australia’s finest batsman.
He was ranked as best Test batsmen in the world as per ICC rankings for three consecutive years i.e 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, presently, he is third-best Test batsman in the world while Indian captain Virat Kohli has sealed the top spot. Steven Smith has always shined in Tests and is surely second to none in Test cricket.
Sandpaper-gate : A catastrophe for Smith
An emotional Steve Smith, the former Australian Test Cricket Captain, fronts the media. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
Smith was at the helm of his cricketing career and with his unparalleled performance, he was always in the limelight. Things so far were so good for captain Smith but, a perfect storm was awaiting him in South Africa i.e. when Australia played against the Proteas for a Test series in 2018.
He was enjoying an elusive carrier so far and harmed himself when he played a part in the infamous ball-tampering scandal in the third Test match of the series. It all happened on the third day of the third Test when a dominating South Africa left Australians thinking for other options to pick an early wicket.
In desperation to pick up a wicket, Australia’s ‘leadership group’ decided to go for tampering the ball to get the reverse swing and thereby get an advantage. After discussions, a younger player Cameron Bancroft was called for to execute the same. Bancroft was caught red-handed using the sandpaper to tamper the ball by the cameras.
Later on, a guilty and emotional Steven Smith in a press conference confessed that it was a mistake of the ‘leadership group’ and obviously on his part too. Soon after the incident, Cricket Australia suspended Smith and Warner for a year from domestic and international cricket. It was also declared that Smith will not be considered for leadership roles for the next year after completion of the ban.
Many raised questions on his future career and Smith had a big challenge in front of him. This incident left the legendary batsman’s fans all over the world go berserk and some also opined that the ban was too harsh and should be lifted. The aftermath of the scandal witnessed some anguished fans screaming on social platforms that Smith has brought shame to the nation and he doesn’t deserve to be back in the side.
He was questioned and teased for his ‘win at any cost’ mindset and some even compared this incident with underarm bowling incident of 1981 i.e. when former Aussie captain Greg Chappell directed his bowler to bowl the last bowl as an underarm bowl to Kiwi batter (against the spirit of the game), only to win the match.
Smith’s irresponsible deed jolted the cricketing legends and in no time reactions came in on social media platforms. The younger fans were upset to even think that their ideal had planned to cheat. Smith admitted his mistake, took “full responsibility” of the incident and even said in the press conference that, “I know I’ll regret this for the rest of my life. I’m absolutely gutted.”
The comeback of the champion
Steve Smith. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
As they say, every cloud has a silver lining, Smith came back stronger than ever after completion of the ban. Smith has never been out of touch, he hanged in there and performed modestly in cricket World Cup 2019, making four fifties for his side. Moreover, his record-high performances before the scandal ensured him a top spot in the ICC Test Rankings chart even when he was serving the ban.
Though, down the line Indian skipper Virat Kohli took over him with his sensational performance and a rating of 922. Smith was looking for a match to get back his lost fame. The crowd many a time booed him and his partner in crime, Warner but, the heroic batter decided to let his bat do the talking. Smith bit the bullet and manifested his caliber to all.
Time and again, he has delivered mind boggling knocks and has steered his team out of troubled waters. He is currently taking part in Ashes 2019 and stood up to his tag of ‘best since Don Bradman’ after hitting two back to back hundreds in both the innings of the first Test match. He also became second quickest to reach 25 Test centuries.
While Smith was enjoying a dream comeback after the first Test, his patience was again put to test after he was struck hard by a Jofra Archer bouncer in the first innings of the second Test match.
After check-ups, it was reported that he was suffering from a concussion injury and was ruled out of the third Test match against England. With his stupendous performance in the Ashes opener, hopes are again rested on Smith to comeback and steer Aussies towards a series win.
Whenever given a chance, Smith has consistently delivered some record-high performances for his side and has swiftly evolved into a nightmare for some of the world’s best bowlers. Batting came to Smith as a blessing in disguise and his carrier as of now has witnessed the rise, fall, and again rise of a miraculous batsman.
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