September 3, 2013

A modern-day Benaud?

Steven Smith has the talent to become a Test-standard bowling allrounder, the best of his type since Richie Benaud
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Richie Benaud and Steven Smith are a generation or two apart, but both legspinning allrounders share early careers that are uncannily similar.

Smith has the talent, work ethic and belief to become modern cricket's Benaud. And he, like Benaud of yore, obviously believes that success at the very top can only be achieved by the sensible application of mind and body.

When he began with New South Wales, Smith was primarily seen as a developing legbreak bowler with an attacking brand of batting as an extra string to his bow. As time passed, Smith's bowling fell away and it was his batting that blossomed. However, his brilliant displays with the bat against England must have given him renewed confidence in his bowling, for at times Smith's tweakers worried England's most effective batsman, Ian Bell, more than any other Australian bowler apart from the lion-hearted Ryan Harris.

Smith has the talent to become a Test-standard bowling allrounder, the best of his type since Benaud. Due to a combination of factors his bowling has been largely underrated of late. He didn't bowl much in the Sheffield Shield in the Australian summer, and though he snared the wicket of Bell twice in one Test, Michael Clarke didn't use him nearly enough.

Any young cricketer would benefit greatly from learning about Benaud's rise in cricket: his work ethic, persistence and belief were an inspiration to a generation of youngsters. And the story inspires even today.

In the early days Benaud had to juggle his work as a journalist in Sydney with his ambitions as an allrounder. His working life began at the Sydney Sun, where he was initially given the task of handling reporters' expense accounts. Then he was guided into the hectic world of a tabloid daily by a couple of tough old hands at the paper. His experience embraced police rounds, sporting previews and results, and covering parliament - in fact everything that is the lot of a general reporter.

Benaud's journalistic day started early and ended a couple of hours before his cricketing colleagues knocked off, but he never wasted that time. Before every club or state training there would be the lone figure of a young legspinner wheeling away in the nets. His target was a handkerchief that lay on a good length, and all those lonely hours honed his accuracy and proved a huge boost to his self-belief.

Possessed of a high, fluent action, Benaud generated adequate spin, just enough to grab the edge, but his main weapon was the steepling bounce he extracted from all but the deadest of subcontinental pitches. Benaud believed totally in what he was doing and what he wanted to achieve, yet in his first 12 Test matches he scored just 280 runs (at an average of 14) and took a modest 22 wickets at 36, with a highest score of 45 and best bowling figures of 4 for 120. In contrast, Smith's 12 Test matches have produced 765 runs at 34.77, and in his limited bowling opportunities he has taken eight wickets at 48.62 with a bowling best of 3 for 18.

While these figures do not suggest a direct pathway to future greatness, Smith's brilliant unconquered 138 at The Oval was his coming of age in Test cricket. The 24-year-old Benaud's hurricane 78-minute century against West Indies in the fifth Test at Sabina Park in June, 1955 - against an attack that included Garry Sobers - was the turning point for him. In that series Benaud's bowling also began to come on nicely. Against the might of the West Indies batting - which included the three Ws, Collie Smith, Jeff Stollmeyer and Sobers - Benaud took 18 wickets for 485, at an average of 26.94. He also averaged 41 with the bat and even the doubters joined in in calling Benaud a future champion.

Smith is an athletic and versatile fielder who can field anywhere, even in the gully where Benaud excelled, but it is in his bowling that I think his priorities should lie

Benaud was lucky to have rubbed shoulders with team-mates such as Neil Harvey, Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, and Alan Davidson - all truly great players - just as Smith is fortunate to have played alongside Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Clarke and the indefatigable Harris. The greats always inspire those making their way in the team.

Smith showed glimpses of Benaud's flair in lofting Jonathan Trott over his head for six to get to his maiden Test century. Among the others who would have taken such a risk, I can think of Rohan Kanhai, Viv Richards and Adam Gilchrist.

There is an excitement about Smith's cricket that goes way beyond the rapid improvement in his batting. He is an athletic and versatile fielder who can field anywhere, even in the gully, where Benaud excelled, but it is in his bowling that I think his priorities should lie.

There is a slight technical hitch with Smith. His lead arm splays to the left too early and that opens him up at the point of delivery. Australia is crying out for a genuine bowling allrounder. Mitchell Starc shows glimpses of turning into one, so too Ashton Agar, although his bowling is at this moment a long way short of the standard expected at Test level.

The Australian team currently has its fielding coach, Steve Rixon, a former Test wicketkeeper, looking after the spinners. "Stumper" is a good man with a terrific work ethic, but having a wicketkeeper mentor the spinners - in any grade of cricket - is ludicrous. I read Rixon had said that he had kept to a lot of good spinners, and so he must know a lot about the art. Well, I bowled to a lot of excellent wicketkeepers, including Barry Jarman and Rodney Marsh, but I don't think I am in any position to mentor emerging wicketkeepers.

If the Australian team wants an "in-house" spin-bowling mentor then it should be someone who knows a good deal about spin bowling and has bowled consistently well on the Test stage. Shane Warne and/or Stuart MacGill need to be working with the likes of Smith, Queensland's Cameron Boyce and Co.

Benaud gained inspiration from one of the great legspinners, Clarrie Grimmett. A ten-year-old Richie sat with his father Lou on a bench at the SCG in 1940 and watched in awe as Grimmett weaved a web of deceit about the NSW batsmen. He also noted the delivery Grimmett called his mystery ball, the one Bruce Dooland would years later show Benaud. It was, of course, the "flipper", which Warne went on to make famous. Richie must also have gained inspiration from Lou himself, who once took all 20 wickets in a senior cricket match in NSW.

Every Australian boy who grows up inevitably playing backyard "Tests" dreams of wearing the coveted baggy green cap one day. As a kid I, along with thousands of other Australian kids, had that dream. My mum and dad didn't leave me anything in material goods, but they did give me something far more valuable: an unfettered belief in myself.

Smith must have strong self-belief. While his batting is nearing the top shelf, he needs to work assiduously in the nets on his bowling. He would do well to work closely with Warney and MacGilla and seek the counsel of Benaud. Those who know their cricket envisage that Smith, with hard work and belief, will become the splendid Test bowling allrounder we all know is capable of turning into. Quite apart from the runs he scores, we all hope to be singing his praises when he starts bowling Australia to Test victories.

Ashley Mallett took 132 Tests wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. An author of over 25 books, he has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson and Ian Chappell

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ravi_hari on September 3, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    I hope Smith reads this article. Cricinfo should mail it to him. Very inspiring article from someone who himself has played at the highest level, to advise and pep up young Smith in this manner. The thought of emulating Benaud itself should give Smith the real boast to make himself count in the cricketing world. In his first full series Smith has shown enough guts to become a regular for the Aussies at No.5. He can take the role of Mike Hussey if he continues to show the grit, determination and temperament he has shown in the Ashes. He needs to curb his aggression a little bit, especially when the side is in dire straits. He should improve his defence against the turning ball. He is a brillinat fielder and soon should be in the slip cordon. However, I think he himself and his captain do not seem to have much faith in his bowling. After the success at Lords, I thought Clarke under bowled Smith. Especially when Agar and Lyon were struggling Smith should have bowled more. Gear up Smith.

  • on October 1, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    Michael clarke isn't bowling Steve Smith enough so they can't say he's not getting any wickets and plus remember when they did bowl him in the ashes he got 3/18 which is really good

  • JohnOfCourse on September 5, 2013, 12:06 GMT

    Please play Steve Smith in all 5 tests and please please bowl him as much as possible, thanks

  • Green_and_Gold on September 5, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    Steve Smith = No runs = Everyone says to give up bowling and focus on batting

    Steve Smith = Getting Runs = Everyone says hes not bowling enough

  • Jack-Worrall on September 4, 2013, 23:35 GMT

    After Mallett's disgraceful comments on Nathan Lyon, on Ashton Agar's debut, he has lost any little credibility he ever had.

    Why is he still employed ?

  • GRHinPorts on September 4, 2013, 17:06 GMT

    I agree with Ashely Mallet that Smith has great potential to become a test standard leg spin bowler BUT for this to happen he has to start bowling more in test matches. All the practice in the world will not replicate the pressure of bowling to quality batsmen willing to punish any bad deliveries. At the moment whenever Smith bowls a sustained spell (witness 2nd innings at Lords) the long hops and full tosses start to prevail and he becomes too much a liability. The way round this would be to use him for frequent short spells say like 2-3 overs a time but in virtually every session Australia are the field. That would give him the in-match development, enable him to be a shock weapon and not cost the team too much should there be an inaccuracy.

  • Mittaraghava on September 4, 2013, 16:27 GMT

    I have followed the author A.malett's career ,he was a great spinner of his era.We are lucky to learn from him about many facts about R.Benaud.Benaud is the greatest alrounder Australia produced.He could win a test for his side by his bowling skills and when the team's top order fail,he had the tenacity to defy and score big.And what a great captain he was for Australia(i rate him ahead of K.Miller). In addition he is most admired commentrator.A unique alrounder of the game.As a senior cricketer and a great spinner himself the author wants to encourage S.Smith, orelse everyone knows,he cannot be compared to the GREAT R. Benaud.

  • whatawicket on September 4, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    hes just another Cameron White whose bowling well hes not even bowling now. his batting has improved but cannot be considered a 3/4/5 batting position. the aussies are selecting T20 /odi players and pitting them into test cricket, with the hope that they by picking all rounders they are going to improve in one of the skills.

  • on September 4, 2013, 11:37 GMT

    A great read. Hope he reads it and takes the advice. Have said the same thing about his left arm as well.

  • on September 4, 2013, 11:23 GMT

    I would like to add Virender Sehwag's name to the list of players who are capable of taking such risks to reach three figures.

  • ravi_hari on September 3, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    I hope Smith reads this article. Cricinfo should mail it to him. Very inspiring article from someone who himself has played at the highest level, to advise and pep up young Smith in this manner. The thought of emulating Benaud itself should give Smith the real boast to make himself count in the cricketing world. In his first full series Smith has shown enough guts to become a regular for the Aussies at No.5. He can take the role of Mike Hussey if he continues to show the grit, determination and temperament he has shown in the Ashes. He needs to curb his aggression a little bit, especially when the side is in dire straits. He should improve his defence against the turning ball. He is a brillinat fielder and soon should be in the slip cordon. However, I think he himself and his captain do not seem to have much faith in his bowling. After the success at Lords, I thought Clarke under bowled Smith. Especially when Agar and Lyon were struggling Smith should have bowled more. Gear up Smith.

  • on October 1, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    Michael clarke isn't bowling Steve Smith enough so they can't say he's not getting any wickets and plus remember when they did bowl him in the ashes he got 3/18 which is really good

  • JohnOfCourse on September 5, 2013, 12:06 GMT

    Please play Steve Smith in all 5 tests and please please bowl him as much as possible, thanks

  • Green_and_Gold on September 5, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    Steve Smith = No runs = Everyone says to give up bowling and focus on batting

    Steve Smith = Getting Runs = Everyone says hes not bowling enough

  • Jack-Worrall on September 4, 2013, 23:35 GMT

    After Mallett's disgraceful comments on Nathan Lyon, on Ashton Agar's debut, he has lost any little credibility he ever had.

    Why is he still employed ?

  • GRHinPorts on September 4, 2013, 17:06 GMT

    I agree with Ashely Mallet that Smith has great potential to become a test standard leg spin bowler BUT for this to happen he has to start bowling more in test matches. All the practice in the world will not replicate the pressure of bowling to quality batsmen willing to punish any bad deliveries. At the moment whenever Smith bowls a sustained spell (witness 2nd innings at Lords) the long hops and full tosses start to prevail and he becomes too much a liability. The way round this would be to use him for frequent short spells say like 2-3 overs a time but in virtually every session Australia are the field. That would give him the in-match development, enable him to be a shock weapon and not cost the team too much should there be an inaccuracy.

  • Mittaraghava on September 4, 2013, 16:27 GMT

    I have followed the author A.malett's career ,he was a great spinner of his era.We are lucky to learn from him about many facts about R.Benaud.Benaud is the greatest alrounder Australia produced.He could win a test for his side by his bowling skills and when the team's top order fail,he had the tenacity to defy and score big.And what a great captain he was for Australia(i rate him ahead of K.Miller). In addition he is most admired commentrator.A unique alrounder of the game.As a senior cricketer and a great spinner himself the author wants to encourage S.Smith, orelse everyone knows,he cannot be compared to the GREAT R. Benaud.

  • whatawicket on September 4, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    hes just another Cameron White whose bowling well hes not even bowling now. his batting has improved but cannot be considered a 3/4/5 batting position. the aussies are selecting T20 /odi players and pitting them into test cricket, with the hope that they by picking all rounders they are going to improve in one of the skills.

  • on September 4, 2013, 11:37 GMT

    A great read. Hope he reads it and takes the advice. Have said the same thing about his left arm as well.

  • on September 4, 2013, 11:23 GMT

    I would like to add Virender Sehwag's name to the list of players who are capable of taking such risks to reach three figures.

  • hycIass on September 4, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Love your work EdwardAnderson, like you i also predict a big showing from Smith, Warner and Khawaja in the home ashes, I have my tickets for the MCG and Adelaide test already, thinking of going to Sydney as well espeically on day 3 when its jane mcgrath day.

  • on September 4, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    Excellent Read. I have always been a fan of Smith and truly believe that he has the talent and ability to become an excellent all rounder especially in Tests, and who knows like Benaud may lead Australians one day.

  • Nutcutlet on September 4, 2013, 8:51 GMT

    After a few moments' contemplation & some reserach, I think I can subscribe to the notion that Steven Smith may, indeed, prove to be a latter-day Benaud. Of all the cricketing arts, leg-spin & googly bowling, besides being the rarest, is acknowledged as the most difficult to master. A LBG bowler has to be a sophisticated schemer; he is, if he's good, the most cerebral of cricketers. And to acquire that wisdom takes time. After checking the statsguru, Benaud was 27 before he had a major influence as a bowler on a series (23wks@16.9 v India in India in 1956/7) & Smith, I note, is still a young 24. He has plenty of time on his side and the batting is wonderfully coming into its own, as we all witnessed at the Oval. Beyond all this, Benaud went on to be one of the greatest of all Test captains & in his retirement he's shown himself to be one of the deepest thinkers about the game in his roles as journalist & commentator. Why shouldn't Smith follow Benaud's footsteps, & become captain too?

  • Edwards_Anderson on September 4, 2013, 3:46 GMT

    Well said Amith, showing faith in our young batsman is key and i like the list you have put up, Smith will be ready to go for Brisbane and i am hoping the likes of Warner, Khawaja and others put up shield runs as they can fire in the home ashes where the pitches are not custom made for Swann.

  • on September 4, 2013, 3:27 GMT

    I agree, Smith should be bowling a lot more.... though I hope it doesnt affect his batting. He could be a one of the big differences in an "average" side. (good side but not top shelf just yet). I think hes shown a great attitude and I hope that the aussies, including his captain/s use him more. Of course...on another topic but in the same vein, I would like to see Todd Astle used more for NZ, he can bat and bowl nice little leggies too.... I think Bruce Martin is good too, but Todd may also end up being a point of difference.... if he develops enough....

  • smudgeon on September 4, 2013, 2:53 GMT

    It's a nice wish of Ashley Mallett's to suggest Warne would be an excellent full-time spin coach for Australia. But of course, this has been suggested many times since Warne retired. I think his offer to have a chat with spinners suits Warne to a tee, and I'd be surprised if he ventured into an official role - don't think it'd suit his lifestyle! I guess this also relies on Smith's desire to be a bowler - if he even wants to be! For whatever reason, he has bowled less and less in recent times, and while it was nice he has remodelled his action a little and that he seemed to trouble some of the English batsmen on occasion, if he doesn't want to be a bowler, don't expect him to be one! At the moment, I am just satisfied (and pleasantly surprised) with his batting form, and happy that he has worked hard on his batting. As lovely as a leg-spinning all-rounder would be, I think Australia need a good middle order more at the moment.

  • GopShal on September 4, 2013, 1:16 GMT

    A struggling batsman, who has had decent performance in one series is compared with a game's great? Reduce the hype please. No show in return series and then what happens?

  • ToneMalone on September 4, 2013, 1:05 GMT

    Too early to make more than speculative comparisons with Benaud, but I'd be happy to see Smith batting at number six and bowling more. If he can average 40 with the bat, and anywhere below 40 with the ball regularly bowling 8-12 overs per innings, he'll strengthen the balance of the Test team.

    I think a batsman who can bowl sharp, accurate medium pace is the ideal no.5 Test bowler anywhere outside the subcontinent, but unfortunately apart from the injury-prone Watson, it's hard to think of anyone who fits the bill as a batting allrounder.

  • hhillbumper on September 3, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    Hyperbole seems to flow from the Aus media contingent these days.Lets go the whole hog and say that Warner is the new Bradman. Smith is an okay player but that is all.How low have the stocks fallen in Australia that anyone getting a century is the new something or other.How about you build a team,actually win some tests and be yourselves instead of the new version of past heroes.

  • on September 3, 2013, 19:05 GMT

    I`ve been noticing him from IPL 2012. He made an impact in the very first match against MI. There is no doubt that he is a future prospect for Australia. He may not be orthodox but he`s effective and thats all that matters.

  • Game_Gazer on September 3, 2013, 17:36 GMT

    sorry, I don't see Smith's bowling improving.. His technical error of the leading arm falling away left is a manifestation of his lack of confidence in his bowling skill, he must have suffered a lethal blow to his bowling confidence during formative years pushing him to excel at batting at least. So, practice won't help, what he needs is bowling in a lot of domestic matches to heal the blow and regain confidence, and I don't see him do that because he will be made busy batting at higher-levels than domestic..

  • ScottStevo on September 3, 2013, 16:55 GMT

    @WeFinishThis, Sorry to tell you this, but Faulkner was awful in the test series and only took a few cheap wickets when the Poms were having a go - and we'd made it basically an ODI match. Even still, I rate Faulkner as a limited overs bowler, but if he's part of our test set up...get ready for imminent losses as he's a slogger with the bat who may score a few and a medium pacer with a slower ball. Sorry but Starc - if we give the guy a chance of more than one test match at a time - will prove me right. There's no way in hell that a bowler the likes of Faulkner could've done what Starc did to SL to win us that test match single handedly - none....ever....never. You can keep going on about his FC stats, but he's comparable to so many others with ridiculous averages of late - and look where Faulkner plays half his games. It's astounding to think that Faulkner was even considered for a test spot. Even more so that some Aus fans actually want him anywhere near our test team.

  • thejesusofcool on September 3, 2013, 16:33 GMT

    Richie played 3 Tests over here in 1953 & the first in 1956 without looking much cop at all.

    However, one brilliant 90 in the 2nd in 1956 made his name, although on 3 successive turning tracks after that, he still took few wickets.

    Smith's improvement in this series, for which he WASN'T originally selected, does show he's got the right attitude. If he can kick on with that from here and establish himself at 5 or 6, then the bowling can come into play as well.

  • on September 3, 2013, 15:43 GMT

    Benaud was a bowling allrounder but he was a genuinely capable batsman, ala Vettori 10 years ago. Smith is now a batting allrounder ala Vettori now. He needs to keep the balance between and ball, and try to become a genuine second spinner, bowling 20 overs a Test innings. Otherwise, he will be a number six that chips in every now and again. That is not being Richie Benaud. Dam it, it isn't even being Dan Vettori these days. He's in the same mould as Joe Root at the moment regarding his role

  • robinp on September 3, 2013, 14:20 GMT

    This is a lovely article. I admire its generosity of spirit. But there is a flawed logic at work here. Stephen Smith has nto yet done anything to suggest he will be a great. He has done merely enough to suggest he does not deserve to be dropped. They are world's apart. He may well go on to great things... but at the moment he is nor more than a good young player with potential. To go from this to saying 'the new Benaud' would be literally exactly the same as suggesting that Chris Woakes might be the new Botham... or Devon Smith might be the new Lara... or Philander will go on to match Glenn Mcgrath...

    Of course they all might. and it would be nice if they did. But its nothing more than wishful thinking. To bear in mind... None of the Smith's 'brilliant displays' gave Australia a sniff of winning a test in England. Long way to go.

  • 1st_april on September 3, 2013, 14:06 GMT

    First the next "Warne" , then next "Gilchrist" and now next "Benaud".....similarly to the heaps of Glenn McGraths [ Copeland , Starc , Cummins ]

  • Sir_Francis on September 3, 2013, 12:48 GMT

    I'd like this to be true but Mallett's extrapolation is wild (he often does this). In 50 FC games Smith has taken 51 wickets at 54. No wonder Clarke doesn't bowl him. It's not the average of an all rounder. As a bowler he's closer to Doherty than Benaud.

  • siddhartha87 on September 3, 2013, 12:36 GMT

    Smith can be the future captain

  • Barnesy4444 on September 3, 2013, 10:41 GMT

    Smith should develop his bowling but in order to become a batting all-rounder. Benaud batted at 7-8 and averaged 24. Smith is batting at 5, where he belongs, and therefore has to average over 40.

    His leg spin does have potential and he could bowl long spells in tests batting in the middle order.

  • Dangertroy on September 3, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    @dutchy - I totally agree. Every time a bowler compiles a useful total, he is suddenly an allrounder. Siddle, Starc, Pattinson... everyone of them has been described as an allrounder by the press this year.

    Smith needs to be left to develop as a batsman first. Once he can hold a spot in the middle order, then he can develop his bowling.

    Lyon still deserves to be our front line spinner. Smith will hopefully have that role Clarke used to - rest the quicks, bowl out the old ball, occasionally break a partnership, rarely pick up a bag of wickets.

  • Rowayton on September 3, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    Comparing the name Benaud to Smith reminds me of an odd one. Smith went to his maiden test century with a 6 from 94. The last Australian I can remember doing that was Benaud, but John not Richie. Others, like Phil Hughes and Greg Matthews got their maiden hundred with a six, but not from 94. As for Smith's bowling I take Markus971's point. I'd be happy if he turned out like Bobby Simpson, who was actually a very good bowler, but always a batsman first and an 'additional' bowler, not one you would count as one of your main attack.

  • Dangertroy on September 3, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    @LillianThomson - Johnson is not a bowling allrounder - he is a bowler who has played a few good innings. I'll not begrudge his batting, anyone who scores a test century against steyn and morkel obviously knows which end of the bat to hold, but an allrounder he is not. the 3 scores you mention are outliers - without them he averages 17. He also has 15 ducks out of 64 dismissals - almost a quarter of his innings.

    He, like the current left arm Mitchell, is a bowl who can make some handy runs. Nothing wrong with that, I would like it if all our bowlers can contribute lower order runs. But they have to deliver as bowlers first, and Johnson is just too inconsistent. I have no doubt he will play more tests, he should just never play consecutive tests. If he comes in and destroys a team that's great, just don't expect it to happen next test.

  • Thefakebook on September 3, 2013, 10:13 GMT

    I don't think Stevie will ever bowl Australia to victory in Tests,ODIs yes and T20 definitely but Tests is a bit too ambitious.But stranger thing have happened in cricket,5 year ago Smith would not even made it to the Test team as batsman now he's a regular no.5!

  • on September 3, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Great compliment, it is clear some comments in these postings come from people who don't know what they are talking about LIZ 1558 in particular,don't show your ignorance the kid is young and shows great potential.

  • Green_and_Gold on September 3, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    The first thing Smith has to do is cement his place in the Aussie team with the bat. Coming in at 5 is a good spot for him. If he is going to train then the primary focus should be on his batting and i believe that even he has said that he is doing this (it appears to be working). There is still a lot of work to be done but its refreshing to see the work he has already put in is paying off. His spin can help the team however that would be an addition to his runs (which is what we need). Let Lyon lead the spin and keep Smith focused on batting in the top order.

  • on September 3, 2013, 9:38 GMT

    Too far and too unlikely. Smith most probably remain a modern day bits and pieces cricketer. Bit of a loose cannon right now in bowling and fits into batting as Aus dont have decent batsmen ahead of him.

  • Beertjie on September 3, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    Agreee with you @dutchy on (September 3, 2013, 3:24 GMT). I doubt he'll ever get near Benaud although initially I too had hoped he'd develop so as to justify such a comparison. Won't happen. Leave legspin to the specialists. Adam Zampa may be the one but atm that's just me hoping. If he does come through there'll be no point in having Smith there for his occasional bowling. Let him continue working on his technique against pace and he may just have a fine batting career.

  • on September 3, 2013, 8:45 GMT

    Richie's end average probably precludes him from being a true allrounder, more like a Warne who got handy runs, sometimes lots of them.

    Not sue which I would prefer, smith averaging 45 with the bat and a doug Walters style bowling career or hm averaging below 30 with the ball and being able to take bags, and averaging about 30 wih the bat

    Probably depends on whether we have another top line leggie in the team with hm.. Should happen... Won't...

  • on September 3, 2013, 8:25 GMT

    Nice piece and particularly relevant comments about rixon being the bowling coach . If Australia is serious about spin and it keeps making noises about it s importance, then they should do something about Lyon Fawad and smith initially before expanding the fold . I really admire Smith"s fielding and his busy, bustiling batting style and his unselfish nature in going for quick runs even if his place in the team is not certain . I hope he turns the corner and secures a place for himself in the side and starts making more runs at no 6 and picks up the odd wicket as he has been doing. Australia"s progress has been slow but smith has been the exception this summer. Ramanujam Sridhar

  • liz1558 on September 3, 2013, 8:10 GMT

    This is just grasping at straws. Smith is more of a Greg Matthews; half decent at both but not really good enough in either.

  • on September 3, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    Who is the better allrounder number 1 or 2?

    Batting averages Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St Tests 12 24 2 765 138* 34.77 1534 49.86 1 5 77 10 7 0 Tests 27 48 1 1716 156 36.51 1973 86.97 5 8 220 52 10 0

    Bowling averages Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10 Tests 12 11 618 389 8 3/18 4/83 48.62 3.77 77.2 0 0 0 Tests 27 47 3194 1709 48 5/52 5/43 35.60 3.21 66.5 1 1 0

    Seems no.2 is way better from records. Guess who is No.2...No.1 here is Steven Smith

  • on September 3, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    GiantScrub, he still has the doubt about his bowling action he re fences it & the fact he needs to work with Warney or Macgilla to get it worked out

  • Markus971 on September 3, 2013, 7:20 GMT

    When S.Smith came onto the scene a few yrs back I thought to myself, I wonder at which skill will he excell at. Will he become like a Richie Benaud type or a Bobby Simpson, Mushtaq Mohammad type? I'm still unsure! I hope your article will prove to be motivation for him to work hard on his bowling, gaining a lot more control & coming into line to be a batting all-rounder who bowls 10-15 overs per match. Although such an "attacking batsman" with those bowling skills, to also be batting in the top 6, are even less common! Will he turn into that rare breed of top-line bowlers who bat very well as your article suggests? Very doubtful, he has a long way to go... a "huge gulf" to bridge!

  • Bonehead_maz on September 3, 2013, 7:11 GMT

    @ JKSFB on (September 3, 2013, 5:10 GMT) Dead right !

    @ Steve Back on (September 3, 2013, 5:51 GMT) I don't think you understand how bad the young Benaud's bowling was ? when he asked his state skipper (Arthur Morris) why he didn't get to bowl more he was informed "because you are nowhere near good enough". Benaud was well behind Doug Ring as a leg spinner. In those days even "hit me out of attack" bowlers like Iverson won series in Aust. Who's the spinner getting 20+ wickets/ season in Sheffield Shield now ?

    @ ravi_hari on (September 3, 2013, 5:50 GMT) I know the state of Australian cricket is at a low ebb. However, if you believe the author, Warne, Benaud et al havn't spoken to Smith you must believe we'll never be back ? Smith knew 3 years ago he's a better cricketer than Benaud - up to him now.

  • on September 3, 2013, 7:06 GMT

    Cant even compare Steve Smith to a legend like Richie Benaud! Steve is a typical modern cricketer - good batsman, bowls a bit mostly pie throwing rubbish and an excellent fielder almost like a Jonty or Ricky. He is also a sharp sledger. Dont think he can be clubbed in the allrounder slot but he can surely be rated as a batsman who bowls. Richie at his pomp was the best legspinner in the world and the Warne of the 1950s.Ideally Steve should play at No 6 where he can also sheperd the tail in a match.

  • dirtydozen on September 3, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    According to me smith, Hughes, maddinson, and patterson would be the future of the australian test team, with paine/wade as the keeper And i would like mcdermott, cutting, faulkner, bird, starc and pattinson leading the bowling attack with Lyon, agar,maxwell and zampa as the spinners And i would like khwaja, burns and doolan to be kept as reserve. Do not know why aussies keep on neglecting hughes for test. why can't the people remember the way in which he supported agar's 99 by scoring a patient 81. he is not able to perform because his batting position is kept changing.

  • Clan_McLachlan on September 3, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    There's no doubt Spud Smith's got the right stuff, I've always rated him. But Mallett is barking up the wrong tree hoping he's the next Benuad. Smith will always be a batting allrounder. If Australia are lucky he might be the next Carl Hooper, or maybe even a leg spinning version of Mike Hussey.

    If Spud can average 40 with the bat and 35 with the ball and hold down the #6 spot in the team, with Haddin/Wade at 7 and Watson and himself sharing the firth bowler duties, he'll be doing the job for his country. Expecting more of him is foolish.

  • Biggus on September 3, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    It's been a long, long time since we had a genuine test class all rounder, perhaps as long ago as Gary Gilmour's brief couple of years before WSC, injuries and an approach to the game out of touch with modern demands put an end to a promising start that saw him likened to Alan Davidson. Everybody wants to have an all rounder but they're a rare breed in the modern game. Smith is a fine athlete and we'll just have to watch and see.

  • on September 3, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    @LillianThomson I have to agree with your assessment. Johnson is unfortunate as the bowling stocks were pretty thin when he was in favour with the selectors - there was a lot of pressure on him to perform. When he bowled to Sri Lanka without mountainous expectations he did surprisingly well. Sadly, his fortunes have done a bit of a 180 - the last lot of selectors picked him until he failed then dropped him. The new selectors remember his failings so don't want to pick him (In tests, at least. And he doesn't bat like an all-rounder in ODIs)

  • AnoopMukundan on September 3, 2013, 6:48 GMT

    Ethic, Hard working, Persistance and especially Self belief - all are very good keywords that defines him. Surely a future star for Australia.

  • LillianThomson on September 3, 2013, 5:58 GMT

    Australia already has a bowling all-rounder: Mitchell Johnson bowls faster than any other Aussie, has 200 wickets at an average of 31, averages 22 with the bat and has scored big runs in Tests: 123 not out and 96 not out v South Africa in South Africa and 92 not out two Tests ago.

    Johnson misses out because the selectors lack the wit to realise that he is a bowling all-rounder, not the leader of the attack.

    I do agree about Smith. In modern cricket, spinners of below Ajmal/Swann level ability basically need to be reliable batsmen who can bowl 15 economic overs in any of the first three innings of a Test while being able to exploit a deteriorating pitch on the fifth day.

    Which is why Australia could do so much better if they fielded: 1. Rogers 2. Warner 3. Watson 4. Clarke 5. Khawaja 6. Smith 7. Paine 8. Johnson 9. Pattinson 10. Harris 11. Cummins

  • on September 3, 2013, 5:57 GMT

    Really? Thinking about a cricketer who would loft the ball to get to a landmark and you did not think of Sehwag? Hmmm..

  • on September 3, 2013, 5:56 GMT

    I think he was definitely underbowled through the test series, that a 'part-timer' ends up with one of the best averages certainly suggests as much. I think he needs to bowl more at Bell in particular, who was also dismissed by young Tom Craddock in England's warm up match for the Ashes. I really hope he bowls more i the return leg as our pitches with more turn and bounce are perfect for leggies. I am not expecting miracles here but would at least like to see him get 5-10 an innings to test the water and see if he can trouble the batsmen at least. He went through some of the Ashes matches without bowling at all. He also has time on his side, no spinner is the finished article at 24 and many don't play test cricket at all until they are 28-30 years old. Having said that, I think the building blocks are there, he gets turn and has the confidence to land the ball where he wants, you don't really need much more than that!

  • on September 3, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    Interesting fact: Steve Smith averages 54.80 per wicket in first-class cricket. Economy rate of over 4. So the comparison with Benaud's bowling falls apart. Smith is a batsman who bowls a bit.

  • JKSFB on September 3, 2013, 5:10 GMT

    As a fan of legspin bowling, I watched with great interest how Clarke used Smith at the bowling crease. It was appaling to say the least. I think Smith is a far more attacking option than Ashton Agar and even Lyon. He will certainly bowl more bad balls than the other 2, but he will also get more wickets. But if he is not asked to bowl to good players, he will never improve....Smith was the only spinner who was putting more revs on the ball than Swann....I feel Smith will end up as a bowler who bats a bit...despite his recent batting success...Unfortunately the paucity in Australian batting talent may be costing them a decent bowler

  • Bonehead_maz on September 3, 2013, 4:51 GMT

    Smith "bats bowls and fields better than Richie did in 1953"(at similar age). That's been heard from Morris, Davidson and a few other's who'd know. Took Benaud (and indeed Davidson) another 4 and a half years (till 1957/58 in Sth Africa) to become a match winner.

    Well noticed "Rowdy"! While the comparison is obvious, I personally expect Smith's overall career averages will end up more like Aubrey Faulkner's. Let's just shhh (Rowdy lol) and let them see ?

    Landl47 has it right - the boy imparts some rip when he bowls :). From there anything is possible, especially for someone so clearly competitive in nature.

    As for too many all rounders (how?) not a new thing in a developing Australian side - at times in mid '50's we fielded, Miller, Johnson, Archer, Benaud, Davidson in the same Test team.

  • Wefinishthis on September 3, 2013, 4:44 GMT

    We'd be better off having Smith keep working on his batting and bowl part-time similar to a Clarke/Lehman type of role. He needs to become a dependable top 6 batsman. Steve O'Keefe is the bowling all-rounder who should have been in the team years ago. O'Keefe is not only the best spinner in the country, but a very useful batsman, fielder and captain. Starc is NOT test standard by any means, but is a great ODI bowler. Faulkner showed he is far superior to Starc in every way.

  • GiantScrub on September 3, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    Mr. Mallett, in your February article on espncricinfo about Glenn Maxwell, you said that Maxwell was a far better spinner than Smith because, in part, Smith's "faulty action" was "greatly inhibiting his progress". I don't expect a response, but I find this complete reversal puzzling, to say the least, since that same fault hasn't gone anywhere but is now a "slight technical hitch".

  • on September 3, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    @dutchy - agree completely. Allrounders are rare so there is no point expecting someone to be a good all rounder. Even the great kapils, imran and hadlee started off mainly bowlers and improved batting when they reached their peak.And apart from sobers, or perhaps gotham, none of batting allrounders have bowled more than 12-13 overs in an innings - that is a a couple of short spells nothing much really.

  • landl47 on September 3, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    Smith has one great asset: he gives the ball a really good rip. Benaud was advised by Tiger O'Reilly that he needed to work on getting his legbreak to spin sharply and that it would take him 4 years to master it. Benaud says that was correct, but that when he passed on the same advice to Warney it only took Warne 2 years! Smith already turns the legbreak much more than Fawad, who hasn't been that impressive so far; we'll see how he goes in the ODIs.

    Smith now needs to work on accuracy (yes, he got Bell twice in one match, but the second one was a half-tracker that Bell hit like a bullet, but straight to short mid-wicket) and variations. He does seem to have the equipment to be a test bowler, but being a test allrounder takes a lot of work.

    Smith is in the process of proving his critics (most of them Australian) wrong. Good luck to him- it's great to watch a leggie in action.

  • on September 3, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    It is just pleasing to see Steve Smith come along nicely in this Ashes tour, much like Ravindra Jadeja did earlier this year. Both players were perhaps blooded in a couple of years too soon, their body and mind not yet ready for international cricket. Yet, the talent they possess is undeniable and the ridicule they both faced was unwarranted. The first sign of their confidence came, arguably in IPL - where again, Jadeja bounced back from a piddly excuse of a year long ban to grab a $2M contract - where as Smith manfully carried the Pune Warriors franchise even as others abandoned hope around him. I hope, test cricket finds them in their element in coming years. As a spin-bowling allrounder with big shots as a lower order batsman and electric fielding skills, Smith can be quite a handful if he gets a decent run.

  • dutchy on September 3, 2013, 3:24 GMT

    Why the hell do Australian cricket writers insist on trying to find all rounders where none exist? Let Smith develop his batting - become a top six BATSMAN who occasionally bowls. He is not Richie Benaud.

    This sort of comparison and expectation is not only inaccurate it is really unfair and could do damage to Smith's career just when he is finally establishing himself in the team. Otherwise you wind up with another Shane Watson situation where his constant under-performing with the bat is continually excused on the grounds of "well he's an allrounder".

    Smith's development was one of the very few positives Australia can take out of the Ashes. But he averages over 50 with the ball at first class level with an average of a little over one wicket per game. Let him keep going in the right direction, please.

  • robelgordo on September 3, 2013, 3:03 GMT

    Smith is a better batsmen than Benaud. He needs to bowl more to become a legitimate bowling option rather than another Cameron White.

  • robelgordo on September 3, 2013, 3:03 GMT

    Smith is a better batsmen than Benaud. He needs to bowl more to become a legitimate bowling option rather than another Cameron White.

  • dutchy on September 3, 2013, 3:24 GMT

    Why the hell do Australian cricket writers insist on trying to find all rounders where none exist? Let Smith develop his batting - become a top six BATSMAN who occasionally bowls. He is not Richie Benaud.

    This sort of comparison and expectation is not only inaccurate it is really unfair and could do damage to Smith's career just when he is finally establishing himself in the team. Otherwise you wind up with another Shane Watson situation where his constant under-performing with the bat is continually excused on the grounds of "well he's an allrounder".

    Smith's development was one of the very few positives Australia can take out of the Ashes. But he averages over 50 with the ball at first class level with an average of a little over one wicket per game. Let him keep going in the right direction, please.

  • on September 3, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    It is just pleasing to see Steve Smith come along nicely in this Ashes tour, much like Ravindra Jadeja did earlier this year. Both players were perhaps blooded in a couple of years too soon, their body and mind not yet ready for international cricket. Yet, the talent they possess is undeniable and the ridicule they both faced was unwarranted. The first sign of their confidence came, arguably in IPL - where again, Jadeja bounced back from a piddly excuse of a year long ban to grab a $2M contract - where as Smith manfully carried the Pune Warriors franchise even as others abandoned hope around him. I hope, test cricket finds them in their element in coming years. As a spin-bowling allrounder with big shots as a lower order batsman and electric fielding skills, Smith can be quite a handful if he gets a decent run.

  • landl47 on September 3, 2013, 3:42 GMT

    Smith has one great asset: he gives the ball a really good rip. Benaud was advised by Tiger O'Reilly that he needed to work on getting his legbreak to spin sharply and that it would take him 4 years to master it. Benaud says that was correct, but that when he passed on the same advice to Warney it only took Warne 2 years! Smith already turns the legbreak much more than Fawad, who hasn't been that impressive so far; we'll see how he goes in the ODIs.

    Smith now needs to work on accuracy (yes, he got Bell twice in one match, but the second one was a half-tracker that Bell hit like a bullet, but straight to short mid-wicket) and variations. He does seem to have the equipment to be a test bowler, but being a test allrounder takes a lot of work.

    Smith is in the process of proving his critics (most of them Australian) wrong. Good luck to him- it's great to watch a leggie in action.

  • on September 3, 2013, 4:21 GMT

    @dutchy - agree completely. Allrounders are rare so there is no point expecting someone to be a good all rounder. Even the great kapils, imran and hadlee started off mainly bowlers and improved batting when they reached their peak.And apart from sobers, or perhaps gotham, none of batting allrounders have bowled more than 12-13 overs in an innings - that is a a couple of short spells nothing much really.

  • GiantScrub on September 3, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    Mr. Mallett, in your February article on espncricinfo about Glenn Maxwell, you said that Maxwell was a far better spinner than Smith because, in part, Smith's "faulty action" was "greatly inhibiting his progress". I don't expect a response, but I find this complete reversal puzzling, to say the least, since that same fault hasn't gone anywhere but is now a "slight technical hitch".

  • Wefinishthis on September 3, 2013, 4:44 GMT

    We'd be better off having Smith keep working on his batting and bowl part-time similar to a Clarke/Lehman type of role. He needs to become a dependable top 6 batsman. Steve O'Keefe is the bowling all-rounder who should have been in the team years ago. O'Keefe is not only the best spinner in the country, but a very useful batsman, fielder and captain. Starc is NOT test standard by any means, but is a great ODI bowler. Faulkner showed he is far superior to Starc in every way.

  • Bonehead_maz on September 3, 2013, 4:51 GMT

    Smith "bats bowls and fields better than Richie did in 1953"(at similar age). That's been heard from Morris, Davidson and a few other's who'd know. Took Benaud (and indeed Davidson) another 4 and a half years (till 1957/58 in Sth Africa) to become a match winner.

    Well noticed "Rowdy"! While the comparison is obvious, I personally expect Smith's overall career averages will end up more like Aubrey Faulkner's. Let's just shhh (Rowdy lol) and let them see ?

    Landl47 has it right - the boy imparts some rip when he bowls :). From there anything is possible, especially for someone so clearly competitive in nature.

    As for too many all rounders (how?) not a new thing in a developing Australian side - at times in mid '50's we fielded, Miller, Johnson, Archer, Benaud, Davidson in the same Test team.

  • JKSFB on September 3, 2013, 5:10 GMT

    As a fan of legspin bowling, I watched with great interest how Clarke used Smith at the bowling crease. It was appaling to say the least. I think Smith is a far more attacking option than Ashton Agar and even Lyon. He will certainly bowl more bad balls than the other 2, but he will also get more wickets. But if he is not asked to bowl to good players, he will never improve....Smith was the only spinner who was putting more revs on the ball than Swann....I feel Smith will end up as a bowler who bats a bit...despite his recent batting success...Unfortunately the paucity in Australian batting talent may be costing them a decent bowler

  • on September 3, 2013, 5:51 GMT

    Interesting fact: Steve Smith averages 54.80 per wicket in first-class cricket. Economy rate of over 4. So the comparison with Benaud's bowling falls apart. Smith is a batsman who bowls a bit.