There have been fewer fairytales over the last decade in the cricketing world than Steven Smith’s rise as a premier batsman. After having made his debut across formats in the 2007/08 domestic season as a leg spinner who could bat a bit, Smith found himself constantly in and out of the Australian side. While he always had the ability to the turn the ball appreciably, there were question marks on his consistency as a bowler. Smith made his international debut in 2010 but after the Ashes series defeat at home, he found himself out of the Test side while his limited-overs fortunes weren’t too different.
Instead of his leg spin, Smith’s batting showed more promise and had plenty of grit – a factor that eventually saw him return to the side as a specialist batsman in 2013. Drafted into the team’s tour of India with senior players dropped, Smith impressed with his patience and adaptability against spin. The performances earned him a place in the Ashes tour of England in the same year. In testing conditions, he was able to hold his own and even registered his maiden Test ton. He continued to be consistent and played vital knocks in Australia regaining the Ashes while also notching a series win in South Africa in 2014.
Runs kept coming at fairly consistent rate for the young man but it was the home series against India in 2014-15 when Smith made an emphatic statement to the world. Having racked up four centuries in as many Tests, he even made his captaincy debut in the series, filling in for the injured Michael Clarke. After this historical series, Smith established himself as the side’s main Test batsman and hasn’t looked back since, notching up runs in all conditions against tough oppositions. His laudable success eventually saw him being ranked number one in Tests.
The 2015 Ashes tour of England saw him registering two centuries, including a double ton at Lord’s although Australia lost the series. Even as he was dominating bowling attacks, there was a question mark on whether he could replicate the success on swinging pitches and against spinners. His success in England put to rest some doubt although the pundits weren’t exactly convinced. Smith was appointed permanent captain of Australia after the 2015 Ashes series. The runs kept coming for ‘Smudge’ as he is fondly called and the 2016-17 season is what probably cemented his position as the best Test batsman in the world.
Playing spin in the sub-continent is no easy task and the Sri Lankan tour in 2016 where the Aussies were blanked 0-3, taught a harsh lesson to him. He fared decently well with a century and a fifty. A bigger challenge beckoned in the summer of 2017 as Australia toured India. Nobody gave his side a chance against a formidable opposition boasting of the top two spinners in the world. However, it was his grinding century and some smart captaincy that helped Australia take a lead in the series and despite eventually losing the decider, they made India fight hard for the victory.
Although primarily a fantastic Test batsman, Smith’s exploits have been good in ODIs as well. He notched up fifty-plus scores in his five consecutive innings of the 2015 World Cup, making him the first player to achieve the feat. The 2015-17 phase saw him upping his limited-overs game as well. Light on his feet and very fidgety at the crease, Smith’s movements aren’t a delight to the purists but is very effective. What works in his favor is his impeccable temperament and ability to correct mistakes quickly. He is also blessed with fantastic hand-eye coordination and reflexes which help him to amass runs with an unorthodox technique.
Like most top players, Smith has also been involved in franchise T20 leagues. He led his home side Sydney to a title in 2011 while also impressing in the Indian T20 League. He even carried out the duties of stand-in captain for a few franchises before being appointed full-time skipper in 2017 for the Pune franchise that eventually finished as runners up.
His career went downhill after the ball tampering controversy for which he was banned for one year by the board. Steve stayed motivated during that lean period and eventually returned to playing cricket by participating in the 2019 Indian T20 League. Batting form was never an issue for him as he continued to score runs and was later included in the World Cup squad. It was a decent tournament for Smudge where Australia got knocked out in the semis. Soon after that, in the 2019 Ashes in England, Smith announced his return to Test cricket with a bang by scoring an outstanding century under pressure in tough conditions.
At present, he is arguably among the finest batsmen in world cricket across formats. There is no denying the fact that he will be among the top batsmen of all time by the time he hangs up his boots.