Odean Smith makes a splash in his maiden outing in India

After an all-round show in the second ODI, Smith says he is "willing to learn" and "work on his batting" to produce match-winning performances

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
An elated Odean Smith jumps after snaring Virat Kohli, India vs West Indies, 2nd ODI, Ahmedabad, February 9, 2022

An elated Odean Smith jumps after snaring Virat Kohli  •  BCCI

Odean Smith woke up on Wednesday morning wondering when his big chance would come. Little would he have imagined the speed at which his moment arrived. A niggle that flared up overnight meant Kieron Pollard had to pull out of the match. In came Smith, and he made quite a splash in his maiden outing in India.
He grabbed the wickets of Rishabh Pant and Virat Kohli to leave India tottering at 43 for 3 in the 12th over. The Kohli wicket was particularly sweet because he had disdainfully slapped him to the cover boundary only two balls earlier. Smith corrected his length immediately by bowling full. Kohli threw his hands at the delivery, driving away from the body, only to get a big nick through to Shai Hope. It was a start he may have not imagined a few hours earlier.
This up-turn in Smith's career has come a few months after he missed the T20 World Cup bus on fitness grounds. An underwhelming show from the West Indies there coincided with Smith receiving necessary fitness clearances. With Andre Russell no longer a certainty - because of his T20 commitments - Smith was handed a cap at the first available opportunity against Ireland at home. In what turned out to be a wake-up call for the side, Smith finished with three wickets and 84 runs off just 47 balls across three ODIs.
He has a bristling run-up, a skiddy action, and the ability to bowl in the late 130s. He has modelled his game on Russell. With the bat, he is a big-hitter lower down the order in T20 cricket, where much of his success has come so far. At CPL 2021, he was the second-highest wicket-taker. Life has been in fast-forward mode since.
"It's about consistency and fitness," he said about his top priorities presently. "International cricket is not easy. In T20s, you bowl just four overs. To bowl 10 overs here, you must be fit. Especially against an Indian team which has top batters in the world."
Smith finished with figures of 7-0-29-2. These went a long way in West Indies restricting India to 237 for 9. This wasn't by any means going to be match-winning, and West Indies had a real opportunity if they applied themselves well. All they needed to tell themselves was to occupy the crease and 50 overs. If they did that, they would've given themselves the best chance to level the series. They didn't.
"We just didn't spend enough time at the wicket," Smith rued. "The wicket was difficult to bat on and as you saw in the Indian innings, two guys stayed out there, batted and got runs. We didn't apply ourselves in terms of batting time. That was the reason we fell short."
Despite the top order crumbling, West Indies may have yet taken the game close. When Smith joined Akeal Hosein, they needed 78 off 67 balls. But they had just three wickets left. This was going to be the stand that did it for them. But one ball in, Smith saw Hosein fall. Now, he had no option but to go for broke. And he muscled Shardul Thakur for back-to-back sixes.
The first was a flat-batted pull over deep midwicket. The second had some wristy magic to it. He somehow managed to flick a perfectly acceptable length delivery on the stumps over long-on. The ball was nowhere near full or driving length for him to get underneath it. But he still managed to use his strong forearms and bottom-handed power to clear the ropes.
He would go on to whack one more powerful pull off Mohammed Siraj, beating deep midwicket despite him being no more than a few yards away from the ball. He'd eventually hole out to Kohli at deep midwicket for 24 after being denied free swing of the arms by Washington Sundar to close out an excellent 45th over. By then, West Indies were nine down and all but out.
"Going forward, I have a lot of work to do on my batting. Everything comes with time. This is just my fifth game; I have a lot of time to continue learning."
Odean Smith
"Going forward, I have a lot of work to do on my batting," he said. "Everything comes with time. This is just my fifth game; I have a lot of time to continue learning. Having played T20 cricket for a while and moving from bowling four overs to 10 overs in a fast-paced game is not easy, but I am willing to learn and see how far it goes."
Smith was visibly upset at grassing an opportunity to win the match for his team. But a faint smile emerged when he was asked of Nicholas Pooran's comments. The stand-in West Indies captain hailed Smith's abilities, and said for someone of his all-round calibre, "sky is the limit for him."
"Coming from a special player like Nicholas, it's good, but as I said, I have lots of work to do. All those praises will go down the drain if I don't do what I personally have to do. Whatever I did today, we are still staring at a loss. Respect to Pooran, but we still lost the series."
Smith was asked inevitably about the interest surrounding his presence in the IPL auction. Smith admits having his "hopes high" and is "quite excited". For the moment, a match-winning performance in the final ODI will be some soothing balm.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo