There are few who would doubt Dwayne Smith’s explosive potential in T20 cricket after his man of the series performance in the CLT20 223 runs at 55.75. In a Mumbai Indians line-up of powerful stroke-makers,from Rohit Sharma to Kieron Pollard to Sachin Tendulkar Smith can sometimes slip under the opposition’s radar but at their own peril. Smith has probably been the difference between Mumbai being an under-performing star-studded unit to one that wins titles. But the 30-year-old from Barbados has done it in uncharacteristic fashion by being a consistent rather than volatile force at the top of the order.
Two years ago,Smith had a crucial decision to make. He’d been out of international cricket for close to 18 months,hadn’t played a Test match for five years,and the explosive middle-order batsman seemed lost to West Indian cricket.
Desperate to change his fortunes,Smith was ready to gamble on a risky move up the order. Then came a vacancy in the Barbados opening department for the shorter formats. Having grabbed it gleefully,the right-hander soon began to make an impact as a T20 opener for his country in 2012.
The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) soon came calling,and Smith ended up being among the highest run-scorers of the tournament for Khulna Royal Bengals,scoring a maiden T20 ton. It brought him back into the West Indies T20 team. But that was not it.
Though not originally a part of the IPL’s fifth edition,he was soon drafted into the Mumbai Indians as replacement for Mitchell Johnson. As luck would have it,Mumbai were continuing to struggle with finding a stable opening combination,having tried close to a dozen already. Smith fit in perfectly.
Nicknamed the Agent,Smith altered his game as an opener and now tended to take a few balls to settle in rather than starting off in fifth gear. And he hasn’t minded dropping the ball and scampering for singles in the early going. As a result,Smith’s strike-rate over the last two IPLs and in other tournaments has come down. But crucially,he’s also managed to enhance his consistency. Mumbai Indians aren’t complaining.
Bharat is a principal correspondent based in Mumbai,