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Smith defines himself as a batsman

Daniel Brettig

September 12, 2012

Comments: 61 | Text size: A | A

Steve Smith's unhappy experience at No. 6 continued when he edged behind off James Anderson, Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, December 26, 2010
Steve Smith was a spinner, No. 6 batsman and allrounder in his brief Test career © Getty Images
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"What does Steve Smith do, exactly?"

This question, having lingered over Australian cricket for several summers, appears finally to have been answered by the man himself.

As he prepared to begin the domestic season with New South Wales against Western Australia in Perth on Sunday, Smith stated plainly that he now considers himself a batsman, intent on promotion in the Blues' order and earning a place in the top six for Australia.

Across five Tests, 32 ODIs and 20 Twenty20 matches for his country, Smith's role has appeared hazy, even the subject of derision from opponents. He has been the lead spinner, an allrounder, a top six batsman then an allrounder again, all the time seeming to flounder without the "role clarity" Australia's coach Mickey Arthur is so often seeking.

On this year's ODI tour of England, Smith made scores of 8 and 21 while bowling two overs, seeming more spare part than central component. Having also been taken to the UAE for the ODI series against Pakistan, 23-year-old Smith is aware he is close to the Australian team, and now appears to know that it is runs not wickets, that will keep him there.

"Runs is my main priority at the moment, I'm working really hard on my batting," Smith said. "I believe to get back into the team it's through my batting, with my bowling there as well. But I think my batting it's just getting the runs on the board and getting those runs is going to be crucial for me.

"For me at the moment it's me focusing on my batting, I think that's what's going to get me there in the near future. I've always got my spin bowling to add to my bow, and if I keep working on that as well it just gives them another option if they need it."

On the subject of where he would like to bat in the future, Smith said he wanted to move higher up than the No. 6 spot he has occasionally occupied for Australia. His place in the batting order was the cause of some conjecture among the selectors and Australia's captain Ricky Ponting during the 2010-11 Ashes, when Smith spent two matches at six then went down to No. 7 for the final match in Sydney.

"I'd like to bat higher [then No. 6], I'm trying to bat as high as I can in this order," Smith said. "I think the higher you can bat in your Shield team, if you're doing well there the better off you're going to be for batting anywhere in the Test line-up or any of the line-ups. So that's my main goal at the moment, to go out and score a lot of runs and hopefully contribute for NSW.

"I ended last season pretty well with a few runs on some tough wickets, a couple of hundreds would've been nice, but runs are always good, and putting NSW in good positions this season is what I'm looking for as well. Hopefully we can do that, get a couple of early wins away and kick off that way."

The Blues begin their campaign with a visit to WA, the scene of a humiliating innings defeat last summer, when they were bowled out for 91 on day one then watched Liam Davis peel off a triple century. Smith took part in the match, and said the chance to return to the scene of the hiding was a welcome one.

"It was a pretty average game for us, a lot of boys sat down together after that game," he said. "Playing in Perth's obviously a little bit different to playing over here. This time we've got to have some clear goals and clear plans for particularly batting and to be able to get through the new ball and on the wicket with a bit more bounce it's going to be crucial to have good plans in place and stick with them the whole way through."

In their efforts to improve on last summer's poor showing, NSW will be helped by the presence of Australia's captain Michael Clarke for their opening three fixtures. "Michael's an unbelievable player and a good person to have around," Smith said. "If blokes can do well as well he can see that being a selector and it's always good to put your hand up in front of the Australian captain."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by MattyP1979 on (September 14, 2012, 20:17 GMT)

Ahh the future of CA. Although Aus have waffer thin batting/bowling stocks right now you cannopt blame them for choosing a specialist fielder. A guy who clames a catch he as laid on for 6 seconds must be worth a punt as he shows true Aussie gaming spirit.

Posted by Hammond on (September 14, 2012, 9:39 GMT)

@Dashgar, I'm actually a pretty good coach, teach the young blokes both back and front foot defence, and how to get inside the line to hook, and the on drive. And I know quite a lot about Australia, how could I not given I was born here and have lived my whole life here?

Posted by whatawicket on (September 14, 2012, 8:26 GMT)

sorry but as hes not a bowler what other way is there forward for him. when they pick a 42 year old to bowl the same style as he does there lies the trouble his employers also are of the same opinion.

Posted by Chris_P on (September 13, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

@Hammmond. Agree that youngsters want to start playing like their heroes & it doesn't help that junior cricket associations start introducing 25 over competitions as their main structure! There are enough young guys I see, both in our club other clubs who do possess solid techniques, certainly they are nurtured at our club, so it's not all gloom & doom, but the overall trend is worrying.

Posted by Dashgar on (September 13, 2012, 14:27 GMT)

@Hammond, no wonder the Aussie kids are struggling if you're coaching them. As a school teacher in Aus I talk to a lot of kids about cricket. Without fail any who are serious about the game have the same favourite player, Mike Hussey. Go worry about your own team, you clearly don't know the first thing about Australia.

Posted by OneEyedAussie on (September 13, 2012, 12:36 GMT)

Smith certainly has potential - nobody would deny that. The problem is whether that potential will be actualised. His technique is not suited for the conditions test cricket is often played under - like a lot of young Australian batsmen. I think the decision to focus on batting is a good one and a step in the right direction, it's not exactly the best time in the world to be a spin bowler playing for Australia. Might want to wait a few decades until the endless (and foolish) comparisons of every Aussie spinner to Shane Warne finally stop.

Posted by Buckers410 on (September 13, 2012, 11:53 GMT)

About time. Always thought he was a batter. Good enough to be 4 or 5

Posted by Meety on (September 13, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

@Biggus - no worries mate, I wasn't aiming that one at you, there are plenty of people who bag Smith. I too am more annoyed at him getting selected when there was no role for him. I read an article at the end of the 10/11 summer - prior to the W/Cup, where Richie Benaud said his big wish for next year & beyond was that Cric Oz involved S Smith in everything (paraphrasing). As I bow to the bloke who has seen more overs of International cricket than any man alive, I am happy when Smith tours with the National team. I hate it when he gets a game batting @ #7, & maybe bowls an over. Cric Oz need to work with NSW & have Smith develop an ODI role for him, & get him batting in the top4 (did a bit of that late last year). I'd also hate to see him give up on his bowling, as I think variation was the only thing missing from his reportoire. But since Cric Oz only seem to have Davidson (the Canadian Sth Ozzy) as a spin bowling coach - I don't see him getting too far ahead as a leggie!

Posted by wardyinoz on (September 13, 2012, 10:36 GMT)

what a joke, this guy could not even make the england, south africa, west indies 3rd team. great fielder, poor bowler and non existant batman. australia would surely be in very hard times if they had to field smith any higher than no. 11

Posted by Hammond on (September 13, 2012, 10:07 GMT)

@RyanSmith- Just because Shivnarine looks terrible in his stance doesn't mean his technique is bad, in fact, he has probably the best batting technique in the world. The bat comes down straight, in line with the ball, and he doesn't often cross bat slog or "ramp" down to deep gully either. I'd rather teach his batting technique to a youngster any day versus this horrible ugly bottom hand dominant style that most young Aussie batsman are effecting. It's amateurish to watch.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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