If we look back a year ago, Steve Smith was probably in the worst days of his career as a captain when he was surrounded by media for performing with the bat, but failing to win the matches as a captain. After the defeat in the second test against South Africa at home, some media houses built the pressure of his resignation as a captain. Smith always showed this character of being a fighter in the squad which many couldn’t see in him. Named as Clarke’s successor, he turned out to be one of those few Aussie captains who had to fight hard to get their teams perform. The test series defeat in India and then being knocked out of the Champions Trophy 2017 in the group stages, the media kept on pouring criticism in the tea-pot he was in. There were more failures. Smith kept on scoring runs but his team couldn’t. In India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, right when the whole line-up struggled against the spin, he kept on fighting like a “Royal Knight”.
But lets look at him now, it’s the Ashes, he was doubted, his team was doubted. And here he is, played against England which landed in Australia as the favorites, as if he’s playing with his family in the backyard on a BBQ Sunday. He has shown the world his real character, it took a long time to but he has finally grabbed the rope to make his mark. The way he’s handling with the pressure, the way he stands with no fear on the wicket has shown faith of fans on him now, finally.
Everything about Smith is perfect. Averages almost 54 in away tests, 72 in home tests, 13 away centuries and 9 home centuries. His own way of holding the bat, not covering the wickets and now, just scoring the double hundred in the third test at WACA of the Ashes right when Australia might have been edging towards trouble, makes this innings a “one to remember forever”. Smith shows great potential to be a much better leader in the upcoming years. This Ashes series was something he needed to hold on to reply the critics. Its been Steve Smith vs Rest of the World, where he’s unbeaten now after suffering some nasty blows, by the media.
It’s always been difficult for any captain whose captaincy has been questioned again and again for the past 12 months, when no one understands how it feels when you give 100% but your team doesn’t do good enough to win. He walks in when the team is trailing around 200+ runs behind England at the WACA. He comes up to the crease, holds his bat like the baseball legend Albert Pujols, doesn’t covers any stump and starts his counter attack. Finds the gap on the off drive and doesn’t stop. Every single flick, every single off-cut, every singe drive, every single glance and sweep had his reply written all over it and Smith was living the opportunity he was waiting for! Smith ended up scoring half runs of what England had scored in the first innings.
It’s always a risk to give the captaincy to the best player in the squad because, mostly it does affect the performance but Smith handled all of it beautifully. 12 months ago he was booed and now he’s a hero. The handwork Smith has gone through will grow his leadership qualities and who knows Australia has finally found a captain to lead the side bravely for away tours.
There’s a lot to see of Steve Smith in the upcoming years and a person who loves cricket surely will not be willing to miss it. But Steve still has to learn a lot as a captain and he will show that when Australia plays away tours in 2018.