Steve Smith might not be a stylish batsman to watch when he is in action. But he is the greatest batsman in Test match cricket right now and there is no doubt about that. The peerless performance in the recently concluded Ashes series, including a sublime double century in the fourth Test against England at Manchester, his third overall in Ashes, proved It again that he is second to none.

At a time, when limited-overs cricket predominates any other format of the game, let us content ourselves by saying Smith is very much the best in the business right now, and, he is that sorcerer with a willow.

Comebacks in any discipline of the sport have not been uncommon throughout the years. Athletes, both men and women, who have done that in the past, had an absolutely steely resolve to stage a memorable comeback and rise above the rest. This is that very trait that makes a sportsperson absolutely great.

From the evergreen Niki Lauda, Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, Monica Seles to Serena Willams, stories of their heroic comebacks have already been the stuff of legends and written in golden words.

Marking a test comeback in a dreamlike manner in the first Ashes Test in Edgbaston, Smith, impregnable to the jeering of England fans, showed a steely resolve to show each and everyone around him of his unparalleled talent. Not only he showed skill and character, Smith’s determination and mental strength allowed to score a hundred in each innings. The feat helped him to become only the fifth Australian to do in an Ashes Test.

“I never doubted my ability,” Smith addressed reporters after his sensational back-to-back hundreds that helped Australia to win the first Test. “It’s kind of a dream comeback in a way. To be able to score two hundreds in a match, in the first Ashes match, it’s something I have never done in any form of cricket before in my life. It’s incredibly special,” he went on to add.

Make a jump cut to December 21, 2018, when a teary-eyed Smith, the same human being, admitted that he failed as a leader by not doing anything to stop the infamous ball-tampering scandal at Newlands in March last year. His actions shamed him to an extent that it not only led to a year’s ban from the gentleman’s game but also damaged his reputation from being the toast of the game to becoming the face of “cheating” in the game of cricket. This is the same human being, whose life was crushed and his career almost over through his poor judgment. The subsequent backlash he received from all around the world, proved to be devastating for the former Australian skipper.

Steve Smith’s comeback and his batting in Ashes, has been, therefore, a tale of true grit. Some say, he lacks the charisma of his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli, while others of the opinion that he lacks the style and grace of Kane Williamson. However, what most of them fail to notice is, that like every other champion athlete out there, Smith loves to fight till the end. It is this quality that has always made Smith an unparalleled talent. The “Sir Donald Bradman” of the modern era.

This is, however, a huge claim to make as both Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara played in this century with aplomb. Having said that, if statistical measures are used to gauge batting prowess, then Smith is perhaps the greatest in this century. In fact, Steve Smith is the only batsman who has a batting average of over 60 after playing 60 tests. In a 65-Test-match career, Smith has only scored four ducks. “I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness. I’ll do everything I can to make up for the mistake and the damage it caused. I am absolutely gutted,” Smith stated at the iconic press conference following his return to Australia after the ban.

Almost 18 months since, it looks like Smith has just done everything to earn back the trust, respect, and, of course, forgiveness. With this stellar batting one after the other, the 30-year-old is surely on the road to redemption. And this sensational return to Test cricket means he is all set to not only help his side win matches but also play the game with his head held high, once again. Critics were of the opinion on whether Smith would be able to replicate the same old form, after his comeback. Smith has proved everyone wrong, and did so, with a lot of class. He deserves to hog all the limelight now and rightfully so.

Absolute leaders are those who seek out the seed of triumph in adversity and battle in the front line. Australia is lucky to have found someone in Steven Peter Devereux Smith.

Smith, therefore, is an infuriating genius and has proved himself to be a living great. He shut his critics as he amassed a whopping 774 runs at an average of 110.57, including three half-centuries and three centuries in the Ashes 2019. The same English fans who mercilessly booed and jeered Smith through the series, rose to a standing ovation when he fell for 23 in the second innings in the final Ashes Test at The Oval.

As Australia retain the famous urn in England after 18 years of wait, thanks to Smith’s heroics, who knows, the captaincy that he lost for his own actions, will be given back to him. That day might not be far away. The bat he carried, perhaps, turned out to be mightier than the sandpaper that led to his downfall last year. Steve Smith was undoubtedly the player of the series in the Ashes and the way he turned his haters into admirers in the English soil will be remembered for a long, long time.

Saptak Ghosh

Saptak Ghosh is a Sports Management Professional, Writer, Solo-Traveller, History-buff and a Conservationist.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.


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