‘Smith has forced batting textbook to be rewritten’

Former Australian cricketer Adam Gilchrist during an interaction with the media in Bengaluru on Wednesday. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

Steve Smith underwent tremendous emotional turmoil following the ball-tampering incident last year. The ghosts of the scandal followed him relentlessly. He was regularly reminded of his folly and booed by the crowd on his return. But the gutsy right-hander has showed great character and fortitude to turn the tide in his favour.

He has turned brickbats into bouquets and boos into cheers with his ‘bradmanesque’ show in the ongoing Ashes series. But then fighting setbacks isn’t new to Smith.   

Early in his career, the gifted batsman in him struggled to emerge out. Starting off as a bowling all-rounder, Smith’s unorthodox batting technique was a joke in the cricketing fraternity.

The former Australian skipper hardly appears ‘settled’ at the crease. After continuous fidgeting, he moves back and across while executing a shot. The high bat lift adds to the unconventionality. 

Smith’s style was seen as a huge risk to his growth. But, despite questions about his technique, Smith stuck to his strengths. Today, he is one of the best in world, his staggering achievement forcing critics to draw comparisons with the great Sir Don Bradman. Adam Gilchrist, the legendary Australian wicketkeeper-batsman, felt Smith’s immense self-belief has taken him this far in his career. 

“You cannot teach that technique because it’s not textbook cricket,” he pointed out. “It is so unique. But he has made everyone watch him in amazement with the way he plays. You never know, in this day and age, the textbooks of the game might have to be re-written,” Gilchrist told reporters here at the IFIM Business School on Wednesday. 

Gilchrist, the brand ambassador of the University of Wollongong, was here to announce six scholarships worth $5000 each and one scholarship worth $ 10,000 to the students of IFIM. 

World cricket has raised a toast to Smith, who has single-handedly helped Australia retain the Ashes. His 671 runs from three games have once again made a mockery of those suspected his technique. “When he came to international cricket, everyone felt he won’t succeed. He decided to try and change it but realised it won’t work for him. So it takes courage when the coaches and greats around you ask you to change and you say a ‘no.’ It takes courage to believe in who you truly are,” Gilchrist said of Smith, who has 6870 runs under his belt in Tests at an average of 64.81.   

Smith’s return to Tests gained massive attention. It was a big test of his mental strength after the ball-tampering episode had hit his morale. Gilchrist felt the former Australia skipper has returned mentally tougher. “His success in the Ashes is extraordinary, considering the pressure he was under. He faced a tough penalty but he is making up for the lost time. He is keen to not make the same mistakes and take the same wrong decisions. He has looked at the face of the problem and showed great responsibility after he was handed the ban,” he said.  

The Ashes has triggered the debate of who the best batsman in the world is. Virat Kohli is behind the top-ranked Smith in world Test rankings. The Indian skipper is followed by Kane Williamson, another batting genius. Gilchrist found it hard to give the best batsman’s label to just one among the three. 

“Smith is playing brilliantly. It seems he can never get out. But it’s tough to say who the best in the world is. Steve, Virat and Kane are the big three. Joe Root is close to them. These players have had their ups and down. But one thing that’s remained with them is quality,” he observed. 

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