Australian cricket July 1, 2012

Smith gamble fails to pay

Steve Smith is barely 23 years old and he's already a relic of another era. He is the last of Andrew Hilditch's big Ashes gambles
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Steve Smith is barely 23 years old and he's already a relic of another era.

Smith is the last of Andrew Hilditch's big Ashes gambles. Some may argue that Andrew Hilditch's reign should have ended years before he disappeared. But there he was in 2010-11, seemingly sharing his position of chairman of selectors with the National Talent Manager Greg Chappell. Between them they came up with three young players to save Australia.

Phil Hughes had barely made a run for the summer in Shield cricket and was oddly brought back at the WACA to face Chris Tremlett and Steven Finn after being dropped because it was assumed he had a problem with the short ball. At Sydney, Usman Khawaja came in to bat at No. 3 for his first Test (Bradman batted at seven in his first Test, Ricky Ponting at five), against an attack that had routinely shredded Australia's batsmen.

And Steve Smith was brought in for the Perth Test to bat at No. 6 after Marcus North's career was ended. Five months earlier, when Ponting was asked directly if Smith was a No. 6 batsman, he said no. But there was Steve Smith, walking out to bat at No. 6 for his country with a slightly dodgy technique on a wicket that allowed few errors.

The Test at which Ponting was asked about Smith at six was on Smith's greatest international moment. Playing as a bowling allrounder and batting at eight, Smith had been part of the carnage at Headingley when Pakistan had bowled them out for 88. In the second innings he came in with Australia 217 for 6 and a lead of only 48. Smith spent quite a while just staying in with Tim Paine and then Mitchell Johnson. It was a very patient innings from someone who rarely shows that trait.

When Smith was left with the tail, he exploded. Multiple boundaries of Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and Mohammad Amir showed his talent, and back to back sixes off Danish Kaneria showed how much he believed in himself. Three of these bowlers are now in disgrace, but in this match Asif and Amir were in another zone, and Kaneria was hit for more boundaries by Smith in that innings than the rest of the Australians had hit off him in the entire match. By the time Smith was out for 77, Australia had a lead of 180 and had a chance of stealing a match they shouldn't have been close to. Yet, in that match, and in every Test he has played since, he's gone wicketless.

The reason Smith was there in the first place wasn't just a Hilditch hunch. In Smith's first full season of first-class cricket he averaged 77 with the bat, making four hundreds, and finished the year with a 7 for 64 haul against South Australia. He was only 20. Clearly already one of the best fieldsmen on the planet. A breath of fresh air in a stale team. And Australia took that gamble.

It hasn't paid off.

Three years down the track Smith is still not a No. 6 international batsman. In five Tests he has two half centuries and an average of 28. In 31 ODIs he has no half-centuries and an average of 21. In 20 T20Is he has no half-centuries, an average of 15 and a strike-rate of 108.

As a bowler in Tests he only has the three wickets from his first Test, as Marcus North took six wickets at the other end. In ODIs, Smith averages 34 with the ball, but Michael Clarke didn't even give him a bowl in his last match, against England. Smith has only ever bowled out his ten overs twice. In his last five ODIs he's only bowled eight overs, and three times hasn't bowed at all. It's in T20Is where his bowling has been most effective: an average of 21 and economy of 7.85. But he's only bowled in two of his last six games, which isn't a good sign.

Smith is now an extremely experienced young cricketer. He's played for Australia, New South Wales, Pune Warriors, Worcestershire, Kochi Tuskers, Royal Challengers Bangalore and even for Kent's second XI. Yet, he doesn't seem to be improving at all. Being an energetic guy and a brilliant fielder only gets you so far.

Years ago, I remember the late great David Hookes on commentary when Derek Crookes was being talked about as a great fielder. They flashed up his stats as they talked about him, and Hookes (thinking he was off mic) said something roughly like "with stats like that, he'd wanna be a [expletive] good fielder".

John Inverarity has already cut Hughes and Khawaja loose, hoping that they will perform and demand reselection. Now the same has to be done with Smith. Smith is a brilliant fielder, a flawed batsman and a rarely used bowler. In this era, Australia need more.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prachurjya Das on July 8, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    This whole thing has proved that perhaps the focus on and reassurance for Steve Smith is unwarranted at this point of time. He started as a brilliant leg spinning all arounder in the test team and within a period of couple of years has faded away to unambiguity. I really feel for him as this was not what he expected. He should not be disheartened as he is only young and should refrain from the t20 leagues if he has any aspiration of developing his game to be back in the test side. Right now he is going nowhere and he should realize this if he doesn't want to be remembered as a one hit wonder.

  • danoz on July 7, 2012, 10:24 GMT

    richie benaud was picked originally a batsmen at age 18,he developed into 1 of the best allrounders we ever had and like steve waugh took a while to score his 1st century. south africa and england have young teams

    i wouldnt write off any of these youngsters,hughes,khawaja,s marsh,s smith they might come good in the future.ian bell struggled early in his career now is 1 of the best batsmen going round.unlike the current system in australia were most players debut in late 20's early 30's,australia in the 1990's most people debut in thier early 20's and if you had a good domestic you were given a chance.matt hayden,justin langer,damien martyn,darren lehmann,ricky ponting,micheal bevan,greg blewett,micheal slater,glen macgrath all debut in the early 1990's in thier early 20's some struggled and waited to the early 2000's when they were world beaters. players like paul riffle,andy bichel and micheal kasperwicz had 5 or 6 season in domestic cricket and earnt thier spot in the aussie squad.

  • Lachlan on July 4, 2012, 23:04 GMT

    Smith was great in the T20 Big Bash last year. He would bat in the top 4 and smash it around, was awesome in the field, and his bowling was sound. I think he'd be in Australia's best T20 team, but he is clearly not ready for ODI or Test cricket.

  • Krycek on July 4, 2012, 15:04 GMT

    Smith led Sydney Sixers to victory in the Big Bash last season, and he has done well in the IPL recently too, so he's definitely a very talented player and especially so in T20. His batting in the Sydney Test vs England was embarrassing though... He needs more time to develop playing first class cricket for NSW or county cricket

  • Anonymous on July 4, 2012, 9:36 GMT

    Yes - they got it right with the woefully inadequate Khawaja and I am amazed they persist with the prodigal Smith. No thanks and good riddance.

  • supreeth on July 4, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    still a 100 times better than Jadeja :-)

  • Daniel Viles on July 4, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    How quickly we forget. In Australia's golden era, there were a number of players who were tried as youngsters, failed, but then came back as mature players and dominated. Hayden, Langer, Martyn and even Ponting to a lesser extent fit into this category. Then there were others who were not tried as youngsters but who dominated when they came into the side at about age 30. Lehmann, Gilchrist, Hussey and Clark fit into this category. At this stage, there is simply not enough evidence to know where Smith's career will go. Let's not ask this question for another 7 years.

  • honkytonkpopcorn on July 3, 2012, 21:33 GMT

    also let's not forget that Steve Smith is a cheat, routinely claiming catches that have clearly touched the ground. the sooner the game is rid of scum like this the better off it will be.

  • honkytonkpopcorn on July 3, 2012, 21:32 GMT

    also let's not forget that Steve Smith is a cheat, routinely claiming catches that have clearly touched the ground. the sooner the game is rid of scum like this the better off it will be.

  • Roger Phillips on July 3, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    What rubbish to say the Brits are a mediocre team. They are really strong in both batting and bowling. Plus the cupboard is full not empty like Aus.

  • Prachurjya Das on July 8, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    This whole thing has proved that perhaps the focus on and reassurance for Steve Smith is unwarranted at this point of time. He started as a brilliant leg spinning all arounder in the test team and within a period of couple of years has faded away to unambiguity. I really feel for him as this was not what he expected. He should not be disheartened as he is only young and should refrain from the t20 leagues if he has any aspiration of developing his game to be back in the test side. Right now he is going nowhere and he should realize this if he doesn't want to be remembered as a one hit wonder.

  • danoz on July 7, 2012, 10:24 GMT

    richie benaud was picked originally a batsmen at age 18,he developed into 1 of the best allrounders we ever had and like steve waugh took a while to score his 1st century. south africa and england have young teams

    i wouldnt write off any of these youngsters,hughes,khawaja,s marsh,s smith they might come good in the future.ian bell struggled early in his career now is 1 of the best batsmen going round.unlike the current system in australia were most players debut in late 20's early 30's,australia in the 1990's most people debut in thier early 20's and if you had a good domestic you were given a chance.matt hayden,justin langer,damien martyn,darren lehmann,ricky ponting,micheal bevan,greg blewett,micheal slater,glen macgrath all debut in the early 1990's in thier early 20's some struggled and waited to the early 2000's when they were world beaters. players like paul riffle,andy bichel and micheal kasperwicz had 5 or 6 season in domestic cricket and earnt thier spot in the aussie squad.

  • Lachlan on July 4, 2012, 23:04 GMT

    Smith was great in the T20 Big Bash last year. He would bat in the top 4 and smash it around, was awesome in the field, and his bowling was sound. I think he'd be in Australia's best T20 team, but he is clearly not ready for ODI or Test cricket.

  • Krycek on July 4, 2012, 15:04 GMT

    Smith led Sydney Sixers to victory in the Big Bash last season, and he has done well in the IPL recently too, so he's definitely a very talented player and especially so in T20. His batting in the Sydney Test vs England was embarrassing though... He needs more time to develop playing first class cricket for NSW or county cricket

  • Anonymous on July 4, 2012, 9:36 GMT

    Yes - they got it right with the woefully inadequate Khawaja and I am amazed they persist with the prodigal Smith. No thanks and good riddance.

  • supreeth on July 4, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    still a 100 times better than Jadeja :-)

  • Daniel Viles on July 4, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    How quickly we forget. In Australia's golden era, there were a number of players who were tried as youngsters, failed, but then came back as mature players and dominated. Hayden, Langer, Martyn and even Ponting to a lesser extent fit into this category. Then there were others who were not tried as youngsters but who dominated when they came into the side at about age 30. Lehmann, Gilchrist, Hussey and Clark fit into this category. At this stage, there is simply not enough evidence to know where Smith's career will go. Let's not ask this question for another 7 years.

  • honkytonkpopcorn on July 3, 2012, 21:33 GMT

    also let's not forget that Steve Smith is a cheat, routinely claiming catches that have clearly touched the ground. the sooner the game is rid of scum like this the better off it will be.

  • honkytonkpopcorn on July 3, 2012, 21:32 GMT

    also let's not forget that Steve Smith is a cheat, routinely claiming catches that have clearly touched the ground. the sooner the game is rid of scum like this the better off it will be.

  • Roger Phillips on July 3, 2012, 18:22 GMT

    What rubbish to say the Brits are a mediocre team. They are really strong in both batting and bowling. Plus the cupboard is full not empty like Aus.

  • Anonymous on July 3, 2012, 15:25 GMT

    Personally I think Smith is being mistaken far too much for a batsman who can bowl a bit - like Flintoff early in his career - when in fact what he really should be doing is concentrating on his bowling (which I suspect he himself is neglecting, and if not, his captains are doing it for him by not letting him bowl), and become a bowler who can bat.

    He needs to work in the nets, become a good bowler who can *also* bat at 7 in state matches and is perhaps good enough for 8 in Tests, then perhaps improve his batting to bat at 6 in state matches, and accept that he shouldn't bat higher than 7 in Tests.

    Actually, another one who suffered from exactly this syndrome is Shahid Afridi. Again, his batting was explosive but over-exposed and unreliable, and after many false starts, droppings, recalls, retirements, unretirements, re-re-recalls, it's now finally being recognised that his reliable stronger suit is his legspin bowling. Only for him to now be nearly too old anyway.

  • bobagorof on July 3, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    Smith is yet another young gun who was promoted with expectations of glory instead of being allowed to mature. There's nothing wrong with giving a young guy a taste of top level cricket, but it was obvious from the outset that Smith needed to develop both his batting and bowling. After his initial few games, he should have been allowed to do that. Instead, he's had a broken run at State level and hasn't been able to string together a set of first class matches with time in the middle or a decent number of overs with the ball. I fear he'll never realise his potential, but will make a lot of money at Twenty20 without holding down a spot in the National team. And that would be a shame, because he could be so much better.

  • Richard on July 3, 2012, 2:43 GMT

    Look at all the Asians giving big raps to Smith (IPL form is bogus form) and Khawaja!

  • Jimbo on July 2, 2012, 21:12 GMT

    I find it amazing that for so long Australia were such a powerhouse of world cricket, that now they seem to need to pick spinners (often leggies) out of thin air with one, maybe two good performances in first class cricket. Crazy.

    Albeit no Warne (then again, no one is), Nathan Hauritz offers great consistency and control. Nathan Lyon is looking alright, but Hauritz is solid and complements the pace team well. Australia's strength has always been to squeeze batting sides to death with not giving them anything. The selection of spinning plebs insults the pace attack.

    Maybe Hauritz has a great uncle who was born in NZ - we'll take him.

  • vvs on July 2, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    smith might be a excellent all rounder for Australia in future but in order to gain confidence in him, team has to give enough opportunities and should have faith in him .

    its all about proving in International cricket he already proved a lot that he got a ability to demolish any kind of bowling in any sought of conditions.

    give the opportunity at least in 2 or 3 series. we cannot judge a player in two or three games. don't be a fool by commenting after every game

  • sourav on July 2, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    Smith is a good bet in t20 but he is not yet ready for odi's.For that he needs to learn to built an inning & work on his bowling as well.He is a good fielder but thats not enough to win him a place at number 6. There are players like Ferguseon, Voges who r better choices for no. 6 position.Australia needs to rethink about their batting choices in Odi's.players like David hussey,forrest , smith,bailey wont take them very far.Mike hussey is not getting younger & therefore they need to show a little more faith in youngsters like mitchel marsh & ferguseon.

  • yev on July 2, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    just because smith swung his bat a few times in IPL, does not mean he is an international cricketer. IPL is no standard to judge whether players are up to international cricket, I wish it would stop being used as some sort of indication of a player's ability to thrive in all conditions against top quality bowlers

  • StoneRose on July 2, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    I don't think Smith is good enough but I feel sorry for the guy. There's a lot of hyperbole about him not being good enough but this article sums up his situation expertly. It's not Smith's fault - it's the Aussie selectors (and not just Hilditch). Brilliant article.

  • StoneRose on July 2, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    I don't think Smith is good enough but I feel sorry for the guy. There's a lot of hyperbole about him not being good enough but this article sums up his situation expertly. It's not Smith's fault - it's the Aussie selectors (and not just Hilditch). Brillaint article.

  • joe on July 2, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    The most worrying thing about Steve Smith is that somewhere, in a basement, is a baby with an adult sized and shaped head.

  • wibblewibble on July 2, 2012, 9:19 GMT

    Smith is only young. Swann was also considered 'future England spinner' very early on in his career, but he wasn't mature enough, skilled enough or good enough. A long 6 year stint of county cricket taught him how to get the most out of his talent, it make take Smith just as long.

  • jackthelad on July 2, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    Generally agreed, though I feel Khawaja has the technique and the temperament to come good in the end; Smith is a run-of-the-mill Shield cricketer grossly over-parted as an international all-rounder. The problem is, of course, who have the Aussies got to replace him who is noticeably better? For the moment - after a long halcyon period - the Oz cupboard seems fairly bare and however partizans try to talk them up, it will be a while before they can rebuild a truly (as opposed to boastedly) great team again.

  • manny cohen on July 2, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    Another considered piece by the mighty Kimber.

    Would like your views on the Inverarity/Howard partnership. I remain convinced that with these two in charge, Australian cricket will soon be back and challenging for the top honours in all forms of the game.

  • rob moore on July 2, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    Exactly, i was so suprised to see him return for that match. I thought Invararity had put the Hilditch bad bets behind us.

  • tim on July 2, 2012, 7:06 GMT

    A fair article, even if I'm a fan of Steve's. I wonder, is there a reason why you make no reference to him playing less and less 4-day cricket for NSW since making the Australian teams? And by that I mean, he might play a 4-day game here and there, but, with ODIs, T20Is (where like you said, he's being underutilised or not at all), all the other T20s, he hasn't had a good run at Shield level to build some consistency - I would think he needs some consistent involvement in games to improve and I think picking him for Australia and using him the way he's being used is hindering and not helping that!

  • ramanujam sridhar on July 2, 2012, 7:00 GMT

    Smith is a classic case of another "bits and pieces" cricketer. Sadly some of the pieces like his bowling, which can be quite useful in the one day game are not happening. His fielding is truly outstanding but this weak Australian batting side needs a proper batsman not someone who is unable to take his chances. He seems to be out of his depth at this level.I think Australia has a problem with their batting in all forms of the game. Their only hope is to give both Forrest and Bailey more chances in the hope that one of them will click. Australia on current form do not deserve the one day rank but then surely neither does England. Lots of mediocre teams in the park . ramanujam sridhar

  • Sandeep on July 2, 2012, 6:53 GMT

    What, Smith is a flawed batsman? How on earth all IPL teams found it tough to get this guy dismissed? Above all in 20 over matches...

  • Michael on July 2, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    Why is not Callum Ferguson in ODI team ? David Hussey and Smith are good for 20:20. Best to bring players into team based on track record in the ODI tournaments run in 2011-12 season

  • S. Fernando on July 2, 2012, 5:49 GMT

    Steve Smith is the current best allrounder in Australian side.Why I'm telling this is because the talent he have and the capacity he have is immense.Better than Shane Watson even. But , Australia should manage this talent carefully.Should give him the confident.should make him comfortable. If can groom him in the correct way, 1 he will become the best fielder in the world (In Lines or 30 yard circle ). 2 Can make him a decent leg spinner in the one day and 20 formats. 3 Can give the chance to open the batting.(Devolop new ball facing ability strong)for sure he will be a right hand Gilchrist for Aussie.

  • MinusZero on July 2, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    Couldnt agree more. Smith is another of those players who seems to get umpteen chances to fail, Mitchell Johnson is another. Who do some players have that golden ticket into the national team. If Smith really is our next best, Australia really is in trouble.

  • Cricket Burble on July 2, 2012, 5:16 GMT

    Totally agree. How Smith has lasted this long in the ODI squad is a very tricky question to answer....but an impossible one is how he ever got close to the Test squad. You'd never pick him as a specialist bowler and you'd never pick him as a top 6 batsman so what's he doing there?

    Khawaja is the best equipped of those 3 to make it eventually.

  • chocolate on July 1, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    They have to give him more international exposure because he is one of australia's most exciting prospects

  • Mulch on July 1, 2012, 22:38 GMT

    Very good article but they'll probably keep dicking around with Smith and have him floating around the Aus short format teams without being used much - the cupboard being so bare and all.

  • maneesh on July 1, 2012, 20:09 GMT

    without a doubt smith shouldnt b there in 15 even....there r much better batsmen thn him...like birt,mitchel marsh,shaun marsh...etc..

  • alvey on July 1, 2012, 20:04 GMT

    Form is temporary, playing for NSW is what counts.

  • bismoy on July 1, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    Smith has some talent with bat,He showed in ipl.If properly used he can be very useful Lower order batman.He is offcourse a very brillant fielder much much better than pointing and clarks.

  • Raj on July 1, 2012, 15:50 GMT

    Steve Smith is a waste of cricketing space. he can't bat, he cannot bowl,not allowed tobowl either. They say he's a good fielder, but we do not select Team Members based on fielding. EVERY Australian cricketer is expected to field. So why is he in the side? If as a batsman,he's depriving Callum Ferguson and Adam Voges a place in the side. As a spin bowler,he's depriving Nathan Hauritz,Michael Beer a place. Send him home fast.

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  • Raj on July 1, 2012, 15:50 GMT

    Steve Smith is a waste of cricketing space. he can't bat, he cannot bowl,not allowed tobowl either. They say he's a good fielder, but we do not select Team Members based on fielding. EVERY Australian cricketer is expected to field. So why is he in the side? If as a batsman,he's depriving Callum Ferguson and Adam Voges a place in the side. As a spin bowler,he's depriving Nathan Hauritz,Michael Beer a place. Send him home fast.

  • bismoy on July 1, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    Smith has some talent with bat,He showed in ipl.If properly used he can be very useful Lower order batman.He is offcourse a very brillant fielder much much better than pointing and clarks.

  • alvey on July 1, 2012, 20:04 GMT

    Form is temporary, playing for NSW is what counts.

  • maneesh on July 1, 2012, 20:09 GMT

    without a doubt smith shouldnt b there in 15 even....there r much better batsmen thn him...like birt,mitchel marsh,shaun marsh...etc..

  • Mulch on July 1, 2012, 22:38 GMT

    Very good article but they'll probably keep dicking around with Smith and have him floating around the Aus short format teams without being used much - the cupboard being so bare and all.

  • chocolate on July 1, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    They have to give him more international exposure because he is one of australia's most exciting prospects

  • Cricket Burble on July 2, 2012, 5:16 GMT

    Totally agree. How Smith has lasted this long in the ODI squad is a very tricky question to answer....but an impossible one is how he ever got close to the Test squad. You'd never pick him as a specialist bowler and you'd never pick him as a top 6 batsman so what's he doing there?

    Khawaja is the best equipped of those 3 to make it eventually.

  • MinusZero on July 2, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    Couldnt agree more. Smith is another of those players who seems to get umpteen chances to fail, Mitchell Johnson is another. Who do some players have that golden ticket into the national team. If Smith really is our next best, Australia really is in trouble.

  • S. Fernando on July 2, 2012, 5:49 GMT

    Steve Smith is the current best allrounder in Australian side.Why I'm telling this is because the talent he have and the capacity he have is immense.Better than Shane Watson even. But , Australia should manage this talent carefully.Should give him the confident.should make him comfortable. If can groom him in the correct way, 1 he will become the best fielder in the world (In Lines or 30 yard circle ). 2 Can make him a decent leg spinner in the one day and 20 formats. 3 Can give the chance to open the batting.(Devolop new ball facing ability strong)for sure he will be a right hand Gilchrist for Aussie.

  • Michael on July 2, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    Why is not Callum Ferguson in ODI team ? David Hussey and Smith are good for 20:20. Best to bring players into team based on track record in the ODI tournaments run in 2011-12 season