When Steven Smith was included in the Australian side a few seasons ago, he was more of a leg-spinner who could actually bat a bit. No one actually envisaged his batting prowess, possibly not even Smith himself. He was a leggie, who was brought onto the scene after the legendary Shane Warne retired. Of course, no one ever expected him to perform half as well as Warne; he was nowhere near as talented as the legendary spinner. In fact, the only reason he was inducted into the team was because Australia desperately needed some kind of spin options in the absence of Warne.
Smith made his international debut for Australia in early 2010, and four years down the line, his career has changed completely. He hasn’t progressed as a leg-spinner, but almost out of blue, Smith has become among the country’s most reliable and consistent batsman. In 22 Tests, Smith has already scored 1535 runs at an average of 40 with four hundreds and eight fifties, and a highest score of 138 not out. In 44 ODIs, he has 854 runs at an average of 30.5 (which is on the rise), with two hundreds and as many fifties.
In contrast, Smith’s figures as a bowler are as good as those of a part-timer. In 22 Tests, he has only managed 14 wickets at an average of 48 with a best of 3 for 18. In 44 one-dayers, he has claimed only 26 wickets while averaging 33 with a best of 3 for 16. For someone who started off as a bowler with decent batting ability, these figures are highly disappointing. However, when you put into context the fact that Smith has taken over exceptional responsibility in the batting unit, and is seen as a proper batsman, his bowling figures are an added bonus.
After a disappointing start, Smith has really improved by leaps and bounds in both Tests and one-dayers. He got his maiden Test hundred, against England at The Oval in August 2013. Since, he has already added three more to his kitty -- two against England at Perth and Sydney and one against South Africa at Centurion. He got 55 and 97 in the two Tests against Pakistan at Dubai and Abu Dhabi recently even as most of the other Aussie batsmen struggled to get among the runs. It was a clear indication of his quality as a batsman.
Although his overall ODI record is poor, his recent stats are impressive. Smith registered his maiden one-day hundred, against Pakistan at Sharjah in October this year, and added his second one during the fourth ODI at Melbourne against South Africa, which clinched the series for the Aussies. In between, he has also registered two scores in the 70s, a sign of his ever-improving consistency. With his recent efforts, Smith has established himself as firm middle-order batsman in the Aussie set-up, and the kind of form he is in, it seems it will be difficult to dislodge him from that position.
--By A Cricket Analyst