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The Light Roller

Country roads, take Steven Smith home

He's got more than 16 tons and he's going to sing about it

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Steven Smith sports a blue wig as he warms up for the BBL Final, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia  January 31, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia

You're all invited to Steven Smith's Dolly Parton tribute show  •  Getty Images

While the shadow of Covid-19 lingers for many of us, the world's leading cricketers continue to go above and beyond in attempting to provide for the gaiety of nations. Not only are many players becoming accustomed to spending their lives locked down in hotels, brewing their own coffee like 19th-century Italian street urchins, and providing each other with haircuts that are only occasionally laughable, all in order to get a game on - several seem keen to contribute to the light entertainment industry in their spare time, too.
For some, the competitive urge remains overwhelming, as seen in the table-tennis turf wars being played out by Australia's women in their Sydney bio-bubble; or the games room head to head between Jos Buttler and Joe Root - pitched by the ECB social media team as a Gladiators-style contest, but really a lot closer to Indoor League, with Mark Wood in the Fred Trueman affable-northern-presenter role. Much more in the way of governmental budget cuts and the BBC could seriously be looking at something like this as a viable format for Saturday night TV.
Others have discovered a more artistic side, such as Ashleigh Gardner with her aboriginal dot paintings. The Light Roller is holding out hope that we will soon learn of Faf du Plessis and his new-found passion for pottery, or Niroshan Dickwella revealing an aptitude for life drawing.
Then we get to the song-and-dance men. David Warner's conversion to hip-swinging, lip-syncing TikTok teddy bear has already been documented in these pages. Meanwhile, at the ongoing IPL, Chris Gayle has so far been involved in more music videos than actual matches. Root, spurned in his previous attempts to get an invite to T20's biggest gig, has perhaps realised the need to hone some new skills that will make him more attractive at auction, having popped up with his guitar on a recent episode of the Tailenders podcast.
But unarguably the main event in cricketer side hustle this month has been Steven Smith's debut as a budding country-and-western troubadour. The song Smith picked for his Instagram jam was called "All I Need to See" - and, without being too harsh, it's probably fair to say we don't need to see any more. The David Brent vibes were unavoidable, though it would be something of a surprise to hear of Smith referring to his captaincy style as "chilled-out entertainer" around the Rajasthan Royals dressing room. Then again, he is the original joker in the pack:
"If you were to ask me to name three batting geniuses, I probably wouldn't say Bradman, Tendulkar… I'd go Randall, Haynes, Inzamam. Walters."
Not that we are knocking Smudge, far from it. Sometimes the sight of a multi-talented sportsman turning their hand effortlessly to a new skill can leave the rest of us mortals feeling a little despondent. Imagine if Smith could carry a tune as effortlessly as he carries Australia's batting? That would be too much. So strum on, Steve, and thanks for making us all feel that bit more adequate.


While social media has allowed us to get closer to players, it can also provide insights that are less valuable. Such as into the minds of the people behind the Hundred, the fourth format cricket never knew it needed (but is going to get anyway). Having lain dormant since April, @thehundred burst back into life on Twitter last week, firing off a stream of gibberish about "completing" Netflix and Amazon, overdosing on GIFs, and generally playing up to the idea that the account is run by a 14-year-old out of their bedroom - which, of course, it isn't, because Gen Z wouldn't touch this stuff with a barge pole. That said, perhaps repeatedly being ratioed on Twitter will be good practice for the team by the time they roll out their 100-ball piñata next summer.


T20 might not be the future anymore, but it didn't deserve such a soggy send-off. For understandable reasons, T20 Blast Finals Day was pushed back to October to try to ensure it took place in front of a crowd, but the move backfired. First, the UK government shelved plans to allow spectators back into sporting events due to rising infection rates; then the sort of autumnal deluge that tends to occur at this time of year duly gave Edgbaston a soaking and led to the first washout in the competition's 17-year history. Even the mascot race, which always treads the fine line between comedy and tragedy, was called off. Three shortened games were eventually held on the reserve day but here was an important reminder: well done for taking on a pandemic, but don't mess with the English weather.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick