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From batsman to superman: Steve Smith's rise to world's No. 1 Test cricketer

cricket Updated: Jun 16, 2015 12:16 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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When Steven Smith made his Test debut against Pakistan at neutral Lord's in July 2010, he was handed the Australian baggy green essentially as a leg-spinner. He batted at number 8, scored 1 and 12, didn't get to bowl in the first innings but took three wickets in the second.

He had started with a victory alright, but five Tests spread over three years confirmed him — at best — a fringe player.

But, that was two years ago.

Smith's sensational rise, culminating in him being ranked the world's best Test batsman Monday, has a strong India connect.

It all began in the third Test in Mohali, in a disastrous 2013 series where the visitors were routed 0-4.

The infamous 'homeworkgate' had just hit the Aussies. Four players were axed for the Test, including top-order batsmen Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja, for not providing written feedback to the coach on ways to improve their and the team's performance.

The team management threw a lifeline to Smith, who grabbed it with both hands. His bowling wasn't up to scratch, but he scored an impressive 92 as the team fell in a heap again.

Two years since Mohali, Smith, the batsman, has gone from strength to strength, taking over as Australia's top batter as injuries hobbled skipper Michael Clarke.

His growing stature was confirmed as he batted at number 3 for the first time in Australia's brief tour of the West Indies, a series the visitors wrapped up easily with 2-0 win on Sunday.

Smith has been unstoppable in the Caribbean. He missed out on a maiden double century, dismissed for 199 in the first innings of the second Test at Kingston. He added an unbeaten 54 in the second knock.

His climb to world number 1 Test batsman makes the Aussie captain-in-waiting the second youngest to achieve the feat at 26 years and 12 days. Only Sachin Tendulkar reached the pinnacle of Test batting at a younger age — 25 years and 279 days in 1999.

Smith's has been the most prized wicket since the beginning of 2014. He amassed 1,146 runs at an average of 81.86 that year. Injury to Clarke, the previous Aussie to hold the No 1 ranking, had little impact as Smith piled on the runs in the home series against India in 2014-15.

In the last six Tests, he has struck five centuries and three half-centuries — this batman has just begun.

Read: Kohli slips out of top 10 in ICC rankings, Dhawan and Vijay move up