Do you remember the time your teacher asked you to kneel down in front of the class for not completing your homework? Or that day when you had to stand on the table for teasing a friend and your miss suddenly caught you guys fighting?
If you're not taking coding classes to create a bountiful future now, these little things would seem cute. Life has moved on so fast there is hardly any room for turning the clock back and revel the kid in ourselves. It is all buried in the race of earning bread for us and our family. In this mechanical world, where you can turn a cynic faster than the American dream, however, lives a man who hasn’t forgotten anything of the past. The factors like celebrating the very reason why he picked up a cricket bat in the first place still drives him each morning that none of us, mere mortals, can ever comprehend. Steve Smith achieves the batting nirvana when he dons an Australian jersey. It is liberation in the truest sense.
Be it his hilarious yet mighty-effective shuffle with the white shirt on or his downswing to send the wide outside the off-stump white-ball to the boundary, Smith possesses a very unorthodox quality that is now uncommon. He loves to bat. That is the only thing he knows. Leg-spin is a past he doesn’t want to revisit ever again. Caressing through cover or scampering through mid-wicket is his joie de vivre. You come for the celebration but stay for the magic.
Navdeep Saini tried bouncing him out. Yuzvendra Chahal bowled googlies galore as if it was a 20-over contest before Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah pushed him in and out of the crease. 66 balls and 105 runs later, it was evident that none of those tactics had a bearing on the majestic masterclass from the local lad who breathes runs for breakfast, lunch, and supper. You gave him a high-tea and was he going to say no?
This is an interesting idea on which you can judge a Steve Smith ODI innings. But be careful when you are doing so. As cricket analyst Ben Jones pointed out at the half-way of Smith’s innings, “This is the sort of innings which makes people overrate Steve Smith as a T20 player, in my opinion. The 40 from his last 15 balls is why he's a brilliant ODI player. The 30 from his first 30 balls is why he's a mediocre T20 player.”
An average of 42.47 at 86.67 SR is stuff many cricketers would die to have but the standard for a batting nut can never be quantified. Smith bats, bats, and bats in Test cricket, raises the expectations to such a level that there is no fall from thereon. We tend to confuse formats and thus a single failure would be projected in a big way. Had Smith had any of it, we wouldn’t possibly have seen the third fastest ODI century for Australia scored by him. It was an epiphany on a bigger scale.
A realisation that Smith is an excellent ODI player whom the world underrated for the major part of the career thanks to his Bradmanesque run in red-ball cricket, a realisation that the Sydneysider can shift gears just as a Maxwell could, a realisation that a player of Smith’s calibre shouldn’t be put into a box of predetermined perception. This knock would wake a lot of cricket fans from their slumber and they will now respect Smith the white-ball cricketer a little more.
Not that Smith was never taken seriously in the past. His impeccable innings in Bengaluru earlier this year had class written all over it as was his century against Pakistan in that home ODI in 2017. When he clobbered West Indies in the World Cup, Australia understood what they had lost for a year and this is something that will never go out of fashion.
If looked at in isolation, there was a temptation to look at Smith sometimes and wonder what extra purpose he serves than being a fine middle-order bat. While searching for X-factor, we tend to lose sight of the sore and that’s an extremely wrong position to be in. Steve Smith is a lesson in life, to rise above perceptions while keeping the fundamental to success attuned. He did what we felt he could never do successfully.
Hence, now it’s the time for us to sit back, allow him the space to grow and entertain us the same he has in the last six years in red-ball cricket. Can we have the popcorn now?