Steve Smith is a young captain set to mould Australia’s new look team in his image.
It’s a new era in Australian cricket. Having a new Australian test captain feels very much like the ushering of a new prime minister. Actually, scratch that. Australia has changed prime ministers more frequently than Warnie disposes girlfriends.
Still, you get the point. A new Australian captain does mean the dawning of a new era. The country’s landscape feels different. And it’s now baby-faced Steve Smith in the hot seat, following Michael Clarke’s retirement after Australia’s failed recent Ashes campaign.
Smith is Australia’s 45th Test captain; it is unquestionably Australian sports most prestigious honour.
It’s been a prodigious rise for Smith, who was initially seen as a future leg spinner in a bid to emulate the legendary deeds of Shane Warne. The comparisons lasted just at their blonde, spiky hair. Smith was a relatively useless bowler, but his batting quickly gained momentum. He was seen as an emerging all-rounder before it became obvious that he was a legitimate batsman in his own right.
Although, it took him three years to score his first ton, Smith rose to the occasion and stamped himself as a potential all-timer with the bat. He has scored eleven Test centuries and 12 half-centuries in 34 Test matches so far, at an average of 55.91.
Smith, who scored runs under pressure with all guns blazing, has scored nine tons in 23 months. His incredible year with the bat continued in 2013-14, as he had scored 1000-plus runs for the calendar year. Tantalisingly, his best years are ahead. Smith has transformed himself into a great batsmen with dancing footwork and a keen eye.
Brimming with confidence, the flashy Smith, who seems flawless with his technique, is making a mark with his unique style. He became the first Aussie since Bradman in 1934 to make a 200-plus score and a 50-plus score in an Ashes Test. Smith has the potential to break records but you feel he will be judged on his captaincy record more than with the bat.
Smith isn’t yet lauded like Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, but he shares a similar kind of passion and fiery intensity as evidenced by his debut Test as captain. It was evident he is leading the young team under his own rules.
In Brisbane as captain, Smith was attacking much like his predecessor with his moves on the field. He was also unreserved in his criticism of Mitchell Starc’s ill-discipline in throwing a ball at Mark Craig.
It was a treat to watch Smith’s aggressive captaincy come to the fore. Standing at first slip, Smith was angry and noticeably grumpy. He didn’t mind showcasing his emotions. Clearly, Smith leads his team in his own imitable way.
Smith has seemingly learned well from Clarke – who was a tactical genius – but inexperience is bound to show. Clarke was 30 when he became captain. Steve Waugh was 34.
Impressively, Smith isn’t afraid to show his emotions as evidenced by his look of dejection with Nathan Lyon’s bowling. Lyon copped the wrath of Smith’s manic gesticulations when he dropped a sitter.
But it would be wrong to label him immature. Smith showed great maturity how he handled Starc’s petulance.
Smith is set to be a firebrand, but is unlikely to go overboard.
It’s been a remarkable last five years for Smith. No one, probably not even himself, could quite have imagined this.
Steve Smith has the makings of being not only a great batsman, but also a great captain. He could well have a reign stretching more than a decade.
It’s a highly exciting time in Australian cricket. They are in safe hands.