Report | Steve Smith to join Cheteshwar Pujara at Sussex for maiden County stint ahead of Ashes
Steve Smith has never played a County Championship match in his career to date|
As per a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, Steve Smith is close to signing a deal with Sussex for a few games next season in order to prepare for the Ashes. England skipper Ben Stokes also responded to the reports, highlighting how it could adversely affect his country's chances in the series.
Steve Smith seems set to make his debut in the County Championship in 2023 with Sussex, who are currently plying their trade in Divison 2 of the tournament. As per reports from the Sydney Morning Herald ESPN Cricinfo, the batter will be available for selection for up to four games at the start of the season in order to get accustomed to English pitches ahead of the Ashes in June as well as a potential appearance at the World Test Championship Final scheduled to be played at The Oval. The opportunity has arisen as a result of the veteran deciding to skip the Indian Premier League's next edition and instead sign as Jayden Seales' replacement for Sussex, becoming the team's second international player alongside Indian batter Cheteshwar Pujara.
Smith had represented Kent's second XI once in 2007 under coach Paul Farbrace who incidentally is the current coach of the Sussex team. The then 18-year-old was even offered a contract by Surrey after he played two games for their second team in the same summer, given he has English citizenship because of his London-born mother. However, Smith opted to return to his birthplace instead to represent New South Wales and dedicate himself to the Australian cricketing cause. Even so, the batter's stint in the upcoming County would not be the first time he plays professionally in the England domestic circuit, given his five T20 appearances for Worcestershire in 2010.
Responding to the reports, England Test skipper Ben Stokes observed that while the move would help improve the stature of the County Championship, it might make Smith even more potent when the time comes to face his team at home. The 33-year-old currently averages 59.55 across 16 Tests in England, only slightly lower than his career average of 60.89 from 92 Tests worth a total of 8,647 runs.
"It's good for the county game to see players of Steve's calibre want to come over and play. But I don't know. It's one of those where you probably prefer them not to get any game time in England before the Ashes. It is what it is," Stokes was quoted saying by ESPN Cricinfo.
Sussex are scheduled to begin their County 2023 campaign at home in Hove against Durham on April 6.