A style all of his own

2014-12-12 00:00

AUSTRALIAN cricket has unearthed ­another precocious talent in Steve Smith. He could be classified as an all-rounder, but it’s his batting of late, the talking done by his composed blade, that’s grabbing attention.

He’s only 25, which means he has more than a handful of years to still ply his trade in the Test arena where, if his current exploits are the yardstick by which to gauge him, he should settle for many an innings.

While an astute student of the game, which is seen by his demeanour on the field, on closer inspection he has a style all of his own with bat in hand, bringing a renewed freshness to Test match batting, giving it an edge and a sparkle.

That’s not to say he is carefree and reckless in any way. He just knows how to use the bat, aware he grasps a weapon used to hit the ball and score runs, which he does with great aplomb.

He walks to the crease with a casualness that belies his grit and determination. It doesn’t take long for him to settle and once he has felt a few out the middle, those fortunate to be at the ground are in for something special.

He improvises, he shuffles around at the crease, he looks uneasy, maybe even confused at times, but it’s all a ruse to throw bowlers off their line and break their rhythm.

He works a good length ball from outside off-stump through mid-wicket, nudges another to fine leg and is not afraid to go airborne, cutting high over slip or lofting over the bowler’s head.

He bats with purpose, meaning and innovation which, when all mixed ­together, defies the adage that Test cricket, particularly batting in a Test match, is boring.

He’s currently playing in his 23rd Test match, taking on India in the first Test in Adelaide, and he has already given them food for thought. He was undefeated on 162* from 231 balls at a strike rate of 70,12 when the Australian innings was declared on 517-7, another sparkling knock that included all his braveheart strokes.

This was his fifth and highest Test ­century since his debut against Pakistan in 2010 where scores of one and 12 gave no hint of what lay ahead.

It took him 23 innings to score his maiden Test century, 138* in the fifth Test against England at the Oval last year, and he has since added four more as he has been jostled in and out the team.

In between his hundreds, he has played some valuable knocks, none more so than his 92 against India in Mohali last year when he returned to the Test team after an absence of more than two years.

He’s always had potential, being in the Australian Test, T20 and ODI squads at 21, but being blooded at such a high level needs time for maturity to kick in. That time has finally arrived.

He’s played for three IPL franchises — the defunct Pune Warriors, the ­Rajasthan Royals and the Royal ­Challengers Bangalore — quietly going about his business with bat, ball and as a lethal fielder hardly dropping a chance at long-off and long-on when the ­opposition start hitting out.

There’s just something about this lad that makes you want to see more of him on a cricket field. Besides Test cricket, where he is beginning to make his mark, he can turn a match in the shorter ­formats, as the Proteas found out in the recent 1-4 loss to the Aussies in the ­five-match ODI series in Australia.

Smith missed the first match but bounced back to be man of the series for his subsequent exploits, which included innings of 73*, 104 and 67.

It looks as though Smith may have ­affirmed his spot in the Aussie set-up at last and long may it continue.

His style of play, his passion, his ­determination and his will to give his best for whichever badge he represents has seen a fresh, invigorating breeze blow through the ranks of world cricket.

Bravo Steve Smith and may your ­example be an inspiration for others who play and wish to play the most wonderful game.

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