Aussie cricket captain Steve Smith reflects on lessons from India
Arguably the best batsman in the world, Australian cricket captain Steve Smith is leading Team Australia’s fightback even as the growing Smith-Kohli on-field rivalry is acquiring epic proportions
He is, at 27, a year younger than his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli. Both are batting legends in the making with Australian skipper Steven Smith ahead of Kohli at this stage of their career.
While Smith has played three fewer Test matches than Kohli (54 as opposed to Kohli’s 57), Smith has scored more runs (5,251) at a better average (61.05) than Kohli (4,497 runs at an average of 49.41).
When Smith last toured India in 2013, he played in only the last two Test matches and scored 92 runs at Mohali. He had not scored a Test century yet. But when India toured Australia in 2014-15 for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Smith ended up the highest scorer, with a record 769 runs.
He carried his form to India in 2017 where he ended the four-Test series by again scoring three centuries and 499 runs at an average of 71.28%. Smith has now scored 20 Test centuries between 2013 and 2017 and is described as ‘Bradman-like’ by coach Darren Lehmann.
But Kohli was the better captain, ruled Australian Great Ian Chappell in December. Chappell felt that Kohli used his bowlers, specially spin bowlers, far better while Smith was too hyper active and emotional on the field.
But Smith has been a quick learner. A high school dropout, he had made his debut as a leg spinner and batted at number eight, going in to bat after the fall of six wickets. Purists scoffed at his batting and felt he did not have the technique to be successful at the highest level. But Smith has proved them wrong. And Lehmann told the media at Dharamsala that Smith was changing the young Australian side in various ways.
Kohli was the better captain, ruled Australian Great Ian Chappell in December. Chappell felt that Kohli used his bowlers, specially spin bowlers, far better while Smith was too hyper active and emotional on the field.
Smith, the coach said, is not just setting an example with the bat but behind the scene also he was engaged in ensuring that everyone played his role.
This inexperienced Australian side was given virtually no chance in India and cricket writers anticipated a whitewash. But Australia silenced critics with their aggressive batting and energetic fielding, but were let down by some erratic bowling and sudden batting collapses.
India, Smith acknowledged, had taught him a lot of lessons. Indians’ approach of blending aggression with caution had made him appreciate the “different tempos” of a test match, he said.
"They have played a pretty aggressive style of game at times and defensive at others and that's something I have learned as well. You have to go with the flow at times in India," Smith said at the end of the four-Test series, which India won 2-1.
"If you build pressure and get a wicket, things can happen pretty quickly. I learned a lot about the different tempos of the game and how to handle different situations.”
"Obviously, right now, a bit of disappointment! We have fought very hard throughout this series and to fall over at the final hurdle hurts and the boys are hurting. But we have played a good style of cricket over here, we have competed in every Test match and for that I am really proud of the boys." Consistency is one aspect that this team needs to work on, feels Smith.
“I know coming over here, I have said it a few times, we were written off and we were going to lose 0-4 but the way we have been able to compete in each and every Test, it has been great to be part of. And a fantastic series played in a good style and credit has to go to India for winning 2-1.”Steve Smith
He admitted that getting all-out for 300 in the fourth Test after being 130 for 1 was disappointing. "That was an opportunity where we could have really driven the game, had we gone on to score 400-450 it could have been a different ball game.”
From being whitewashed by Sri Lanka to losing to South Africa at home before giving India a run for their money, the team has come a long way, said Smith.
"This team has grown so quickly. We are still a very young side, it wasn't too long ago, we were at Hobart (losing to SA) and it was the end of the world! So I am proud of the way we have been able to turn things around and really compete in these conditions.
"I know coming over here, I have said it a few times, we were written off and we were going to lose 0-4 but the way we have been able to compete in each and every Test, it has been great to be part of. And a fantastic series played in a good style and credit has to go to India for winning 2-1."
With PTI inputs.