Steven Smith has had an interesting little career,to say the very least. The Aussie made his Test debut at Lords in a non-Ashes match and cost his side a Test in Mohali while he wasnt even in the playing eleven. Smith 1.0 played Test cricket as a proper leggie who could bat a bit.
Now,in his comeback avatar,he is a proper batsman who can bowl a bit. All this has occurred in his life within the space of just five Test matches. On Thursday,he was picked for his sixth.
But here in Mohali,he has amends to make.
The background first. In the first Test of the 2010 series between India and Australia,played here at the PCA,an excruciatingly tight game was at its climax. VVS Laxman was doing what he does best stand soberly in the way of the Aussies and champagne. Teetotaler Laxman had fought through back spasms,ones that made him bat at number 10 in the first innings and number seven in the second,to put India six runs away from an unforeseeable win. But just five runs ago,he had lost the company of Ishant Sharma,with whom he had stitched an 81-run ninth wicket defiance. Now,it was down to the last stand.
Enter Smith,as a substitute fielder. And what does he do? I came on as 12th man and threw four overthrows to end up on the losing side, he said rather sheepishly on Thursday. The overthrows,incidentally,were to cause a run-out on a ball that also had an LBW appeal. Just to be back in both the squad and the eleven is very exciting.
Smiths inclusion gives captain Michael Clarke more spin options. With all-rounder Glenn Maxwell dropped,Australia have two specialist spinners in Nathan Lyon and Xavier Doherty and have part-timers Clarke and Smith for variation. But it is Smiths batting,however,that has brought him back into the side. In the last 12 to 18 months,I have improved a lot as a batsman. I made a few changes to my technique,which made me more stable,more balanced and more selective at the crease, he said. Hopefully I will be successful at number five.
In this series,it is the only position that has seen success for Australia,with Clarke batting there before moving up to occupy the vacant slot.
So what exactly made him give up trying to be Australias next Shane Warne? His answer is spontaneous and brutally honest. I think I was always more of a batsman than a bowler. Just got picked for different reasons in the Test side before, Smith said. In the just completed Shield season,Smith scored four fifties,averaged over 40 and collected 363 runs. In that time,he bowled a total of just 22 overs for a wicket.
Ive stopped bowling in Shield cricket because of talented spinners coming through the ranks for New South Wales, he said. Will he then not ask his skipper for the ball over the next four days? If theres a rough on this dry wicket sometime in the second innings,I would love to work a few leggies through. Yes,why not?
Australia XI: Ed Cowan,D Warner,P Hughes,M Clarke (c),B Haddin (wk),X Doherty,N Lyon,S Smith,M Henriques,M Starc,P Siddle.