Mumbai: It is never too late. And that’s what Australian skipper Steven Smith was here to teach the world on India’s Teacher’s Day. If one really intends to make a real comeback after a series of name shaming, and despite of it all, wants to inject some positivity in the world, one can as Smith stands an institution in himself from whom one can learn.
Cricket Australia bans him for a year. A year passes and he makes a comeback. However, his past continues to haunt as the hostile English crowd still continues to boo him. To add to personal tragedies, he is later hit by a lethal bouncer from Jofra Archer. But past is a history, at least, for Smith now. It is the game of cricket which had brought him shame and brought him back his name.
And amid all this, what is the driving force? The former fame. The world of cricket is a witness to his excellence in performance in Test cricket, especially in The Ashes. On Thursday (Sept 05), Smith batted as if nothing had happened. By hitting a magnificent 211 in a team total of 497 for eight declared, he has catapulted himself to the heights rarely seen in the gentleman’s game.
‘New Balance’ reads the sticker on his bat. And very true: it has become a balancing act by this phenomenal batsman, as well as his unorthodox shuffle across the crease, says a million words about Smith. Since his return to Test cricket in August this year, he has scored no less than three figures—144, 142, 211— (except for one - 92), and a mind-blowing average of 147.25. The batsman, who has a very peculiar stance while batting, leads the world in Test runs scored this calendar year and to no surprise, no one is even half his average.
This is a phenomenal achievement for a guy, whose future was uncertain a year ago. Virat Kohli is a world-class player, and since 2018, The Indian captain saw tons of runs flowing from his bat. But Smith has superseded Kohli’s feat and has already displaced the Indian captain from the No. 1 Test ranking batsman position. Not to mention that was even before he struck a 211 at the Old Trafford Test.
Now, this may seem like a bit of a stretch, but it increasingly looks like we might finally have a Don ‘Bradmanesque’ phenomenon unravelling before our eyes. Smith now has three double centuries in Ashes Tests. Only Bradman (8) and Wally Hammond (4) lie above him on that list. He also has 11 centuries against England.
Only three cricketers have scored as many tons against a single opposition: Bradman (19) vs England, Sunil Gavaskar (13) vs West Indies and Jack Hobbs (12) vs Australia. Smith is the only Australian batsman to have scored double-hundreds in England in the last 25 years.
Interestingly, his 93.64 average is from the 1st innings of Tests. This includes 3184 runs in just 39 innings with 16 hundreds. Only Bradman (113.66) had a better 1st innings average than Smith in his career. And his double hundred at Manchester’s effort also means that Smith’s career average is now 64.64. With 6788 runs in 67 Tests, Smith only lies behind Bradman’s astronomical figure of 99.94 in terms of Test batting average. Smith is now the only batsman to have scored 500+ runs in 3 consecutive Ashes series, 508 runs in 2015 Ashes in England and 687 runs in the 2017-18 home Ashes before his ongoing epic. Bradman scored 500-plus runs in five different series, but even he couldn’t achieve the feat thrice in a row, not even in his pomp.
If those hundreds erased doubts about whether he would be the same stellar batsman after the traumatic events during a Test in Cape Town that led to his being stripped of the Australia captaincy and a lengthy suspension, Thursday’s innings have put to rest fears of any lingering ill-effects after he was concussed by a Jofra Archer bouncer.