A look at batting genius Steve Smith and a technique only he can carry
Earlier in his Test career, he used to stand on the middle stump and there was no movement before the ball was bowled.
Published - Jan 8, 2018 3:35 pm | Updated - Jul 3, 2018 7:37 pm
Steve Smith’s rise as the world’s best Test batsman comes as no surprise as he continues to grow from strength to strength in the longest format of the game. In Ashes 2017-18, Australia thrashed England by an innings and 123 runs at the Sydney Cricket ground (SCG), to win the five-match series 4-0 and it was Smith who chipped in so effortlessly in all of the matches and in turn rub shoulders with the legendary Sir Donald Bradman.
Smith was rightly adjudged the man-of-the-series for scoring an emphatic 687 runs at an average of 137.40. Three centuries were a part of this carnage with the Australian skipper giving nothing away to the English bowlers. Smith has been a phenomenal character for the game of late and the question arises how does a bowler stop him? He was dismissed below 10, only once during this series and returned with two unbeaten centuries.
This isn’t the first time Smith amassed a bag full of runs in a Test series on fast pitches at home. Back in 2014-15, he plundered runs at will against India as well. Interestingly, in that four-match series, he struck four hundreds scoring 769 runs at an average of 128.16. The English bowlers in the recently concluded Ashes had come with a plan to get him out early, but each time Smith defied them to keep scoring big runs and leave them gasping in the end.
An unorthodox player while batting, Smith has found a place for himself on how to maximise and keep the bowlers guessing. Interestingly, his back-lift is backed by a strong bottom-hand and just when he releases himself, his pick-up goes initially out to gully and then the bat somehow creates an arc. It comes down straight when the length of the ball is in the middle-leg line. In case the ball is short outside the off-stump, he is always ready to play with a cross-bat.
Most times his technique has turned out to be a success in terms of attacking the ball. While defending too, he is quick to adjust to the length and it is as strong as his attack. His scoring shots is equal in both the off and the on-side to highlight the bowlers’ option turning very minimal on the other end.
Focus on the back foot
His compatriots in the ‘Fab Four’ play more on the front foot, but Smith is a king of the back foot. Many bowlers tend to attack him on the stumps with the wickets exposed when he bats. But the angle of his bat is so perfect that it helps him play the ball without any fuss. Smith bats with both his feet very close to each other.
In the 1st innings of the fifth Test at the SCG, he defended a short ball from Stuart Broad like a tennis shot and managed to keep the ball on the ground to get his teammates chuckling while watching him from the pavilion. Such is his back foot game.
Change of guard that has now ended the vulnerability
What was seen in the 2017-18 Ashes, is that he exposes his off and middle stump and just as the ball is being delivered, he shuffles across. Most often his back foot is covering the off stump when the ball is released. The world No.1 knows where his off stump is and that has been a reason for his precise shot selection. Every time one watch him, there is a feeling that he always has a lot of time.
Earlier in his Test career, he used to stand on the middle stump and there was no movement before the ball was bowled. In 2013, Smith had stated to The Australian, that his stance often led to him nicking the ball after he was found fending around the off-stump. The change of guard in the Ashes series that year turned out to be a success from there on.
Smith’s movement was a long way across his stumps this summer. In conditions that boast of swing and seam, like in England, his movement is restricted. Likewise, he still manages to play both attack and defence with equal prowess and being a busy player while batting, it helps him in muster runs aplenty.