Pakistan v Australia 2010 June 25, 2010

Katich backs Smith as Test prospect


Steven Smith's state captain Simon Katich is confident the legspinning allrounder will be ready for Test cricket if he gets his opportunity at Lord's against Pakistan next month. Nathan Hauritz has been forced home from Australia's tour with a foot injury and is unlikely to be fit for the Tests, which leaves Smith as the sole spinner in the squad.

The Australian selectors are understandably excited by Smith, who at 21 already has four first-class centuries to his name, is a miraculous fielder and an improving bowler. The major question-mark over Smith as a potential Test player is the quality of his legspin, which has brought him 26 wickets in first-class cricket at an average of 48.84.

They are hardly the sort of figures that will strike fear into Test batsmen. But Katich, who will be one of Smith's Test team-mates if he is handed a baggy green at Lord's, said Smith had taken major steps in his bowling last summer and his season-ending effort for New South Wales of 7 for 64 against South Australia at the SCG was a terrific sign.

"He blew us all away with the way he knocked South Australia over on one afternoon of cricket," Katich, who is in England playing for Lancashire, told Cricinfo. "At one stage they were cruising at 2 for 180 and then in an hour's time they were all out and we'd finished the season.

"It was phenomenal bowling and the way he was getting his wickets was great - big spinning legspinners caught and slip and bat pad and bowled - genuine wickets, not through bad shots or anything. He just went through them with great bowling. That was exciting to see him make a statement."

That display alone meant Smith had already bettered the first-class bowling best of Cameron White, to whom he is often compared as a useful legspinner and powerful batsman. White was chosen as a bowler in all four Tests on Australia's tour of India in 2008, yet in 108 first-class appearances he has only ever taken two five-wicket hauls.

Smith has spoken about the value of his one-on-one training with Shane Warne during the Australian summer, when he was first called in to the Test squad as cover. Since then he has firmly established himself in Australia's Twenty20 squad and over the next few weeks has the chance to make his name as a one-day and Test player.

"There's been a lot of talk about who's going to be the next big thing spinning-wise in Australia," Katich said. "That's a lot of pressure for the young guys coming through. The way he progressed through the summer, when he was in and around the Test squad at various stages and spent time with Warney ... his bowling went to another level after those sessions.

"He's a confident player and he's prepared to listen and learn. He's got a very bright future in front of him. Whether he gets an opportunity or not [in the Tests] we'll wait and see, but if the wickets are dry and they spin, then he could come into calculations. There's no doubt that he's gaining confidence being in and around the Australian setup. You can see his improvement all the time."

If Smith does make his debut next month, he will be the eighth spinner Australia have tried in Tests since the retirement of Warne just over three years ago. Of those, Brad Hogg and Stuart MacGill have retired, Beau Casson is struggling for a place with New South Wales, Jason Krejza has fallen away for Tasmania, Bryce McGain is performing solidly but is 38, and White rarely bowls for Victoria.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • A on June 28, 2010, 10:03 GMT

    @John Baker I can see your side, but when you consider that the selectors never get credit for picking a victorious side, but certainly get criticised if the team loses and a favoured NSW-man hasn't been included, then you can see how their role can be skewed. Since Packer turned cricket into a business, the biggest market, (NSW), has been pandered to, with the media and the ACB involved. (Read Kepler Wessels' book. He played for Aust. during WSC, and left the test team due to favouritism.) People like Katich, Hauritz and Simon Cook have stated that they have gone to NSW to improve their chances of selection for Aust.- which occurred. Selectors keep their job if they benefit their employers, (ACB). The ACB are about profit-making first and foremost. I am not averse to anyone from NSW playing for Aust. as long as they have earned the spot as anyone else has to. This is clearly not the case. Hodge, Hills, Siddons, etc. Can we name a NSWman that has withered on the vine?

  • John on June 28, 2010, 4:57 GMT

    @popcorn, we're already firm favourites to win the Ashes down under. 25 years since England won a live test down under. And counting. Good that Smith will probably get a go against Pakistan, I don't think his bowling is quite up to test level yet, but he's a great prospect nonetheless.

  • Matt on June 28, 2010, 0:24 GMT

    BillyCC. Goodbye North, Smith in at 6. Keep Hauritz.

    Watson, Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Smith, Haddin (Paine if injured), Johnson, Hauritz, Harris, Hilfenhaus (Bollinger if injured). North sub and Paine supersub for fielding.

    No Siddle coz he's down on form and he's not that good a fielder as thats all subs do. Bollinger not in either for fielding. Hilfenhaus is a better bowler then Bollinger.

    Has everyone forgotten Hauritz's 5 for in Melboune last summer and his 5 for in Sydney which won us the match out of nowhere? Remember? His 3 for in Tas didn't harm him either. Maybe Smith # 1 spinner in ODI coz Ritzy not bowling to well in ODI but in test gotta be Hauritz. They were not flukes like Krejza's 8/215 in his first ever innings. Hauritz doubled his 5 for and both were on day 5. He can take a 2/3 wickets on a 1/2/3 day pitch anyway. Hauritz the go for leading our spin bowling attack in tests not Smith. Go Horry! You show em non believers!

  • Billy on June 27, 2010, 1:54 GMT

    CleanTactics, your suggestions are interesting and thought-provoking. I can see the logic behind Clarke coming in at 3 and Ponting at 4. I worry about Watson opening in the long term and what they would do to his bowling, but if Smith comes in, that may alleviate the workload and add to the batting lineup. In that case, either Hauritz or North will have to go, most likely North.

  • Rajaram on June 26, 2010, 13:38 GMT

    I agree with Simon Katich. Young Steve Smith has shown tremendous maturity to anchor the innings along with Cameron white in Game 2 of the ODi series against England.While he will be expected to concentrate on his leg spin bowling, and emulate Shane Warne, his fielding and batting will be a bonus for Australia! Australia will then bat deep,and will be the firm favourites in The Ashes 2010 -11 in Oz.!

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2010, 5:30 GMT

    @ skillnotresult: What's with the NSW selection conspiracy? I mean the selection panel has 2 Tasmanians, a Victorian, and a turncoat New South Welshman. If it was 3-4 New South Welshmen on the panel then maybe understandable. Smith as a No. 6 Bat is where he should be, taking the Marcus North role. Not batting at No. 8 like White did in India.

  • Neil on June 26, 2010, 3:18 GMT

    There are two spinners in Australian cricket who could possibly be good Test picks. One is Steve Smith, the other is Steve O'Keefe - both from NSW. If there was any other spinner from any other state who was better I would pick them, but there isn't. Of the two, O'Keefe has the better record and I think he will play against India if Smith doesn't succeed against Pakistan. Actually both O'Keefe and Smith look more promising than any other spinner since Warne... and both of them are all-rounders. Interesting times ahead - I hope I won't get disappointed.

  • Guy on June 26, 2010, 3:12 GMT

    Agree with manasvi that Smith is a batting allrounder. Can chip in for a wicket here and there but can't hold down an end in a Test match (or a Shield match for that matter). Has to bat in the top 6 so he understands that he has to deliver with the bat, with bowling and fielding a bonus. To do otherwise is to repeat the mistake of Cameron White in India 2008 - a complete debacle. I think it would also put unnecessary pressure on his bowling and be bad for his development - Smith has to deliver with the bat and let his bowling develop over time. So with Hauritz out the team for Pak tests should be: Watson, Katich, Ponting, Clarke, North, Smith, Paine, Johnson, Harris, Hilfenhaus, Bollinger. Hussey dropped not on form but for team balance so North can provide off-spin. We drop bowlers for team balance, why not batsmen? With no frontline spinner we need 4 quicks for stability, plus Watson, Katich, Smith and North to provide variety

  • Dummy4 on June 26, 2010, 3:05 GMT

    What about Ed Henty? He hit 37 for the Quokkas

  • A on June 26, 2010, 1:22 GMT

    Once again we have a NSW representative that is in line for selection based on potential, while representatives of other state teams have to produce good performances over longer periods, and then wait for someone to be injured or dropped. I would be interested to view research on the average age of an Australian Test-team debutante that represents NSW, compared to a debutante that plays for another state. Smith may well have achieved good figures against SA in his season-ending effort last year, but how does this translate into consideration for selection. Or rather, as justification for ignoring the doubts over his ability to bowl well consistently? It seems that all a NSW rep needs to do to be considered, is have one good season, (or even one good performance), and then he is in-line. Pick Smith when he produces. The Baggy Green should be earnt, and not devalued. Is all that it is worth one spell of 7/64 on a wearing SCG pitch against underperformers?

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