It is certainly hard not to put some thoughts down about Steve Smith after he completed one of the great Ashes innings by an Australian. When watching the records for highest Ashes score by an Australian at Lords slowly get eaten up by the unorthodox right hander, it was hard to not think just how good can this guy be?
Lots of cricketers come and go, like a flash in the fry pan with big innings, a purple patch, something special, but his current form is moving into rarefied air.
I am a New South Welshman originally and have been a keen follower since hearing murmurings about his feats in grade cricket at Sutherland District Cricket Club, in the Sydney First Grade Competition. While freakish kids are actually common story, not many make the step to first class and test cricket while making it look it easy. Under the watchful eye of Phil Jaques, when he was on his come back from injury after playing test cricket, Smith learnt what preparation was required of someone to play at test level. Jacques himself had a reputation for leaving no stone unturned, so he was the perfect fit to guide Smith as a 16 year old.
Since being dropped from the test side after his well-documented selection as an outright leggy, his new found patience and understanding of his game are something all first class cricketers can take a long hard look at. Four and five day cricket is a long game. Smith has said that since he has had a real honest look at his previous dismissals and realised he didn’t need to play a shot so many times, there was an easy solution. Be patient, wait for the ball to come into your areas and when they do, back yourself. Easy enough, right?
To actually put that patience into play is a quality all the best test batsmen share. They no longer look at 100 as the goal, 150 becomes the target….. Hundreds into big hundreds…. Michael Clarke said it after his purple patch of knocking out doubles and his triple in the one summer, most batsmen have the mental barrier of a century because that is what gets recorded in the books as a good innings. He followed it with, if you can make a hundred, why not two? It’s the mental capacity to stay focused and know that your job isn’t over. How often have we seen in the past a batsmen get themselves out immediately after breaking through the century barrier?
Smith no longer looks at centuries as the goal, he is so confident that if he leaves the balls that don’t require his attention, and plays the balls on merit that do, he can bat all day and some of the next. Let’s hope that there are some state cricketers watching and taking that same long look at their games ready to take a spot as the members of ‘Dads Army’ start packing it up.