Every sports discipline in history has produced their own specific sets of iconic figures.
These names that become renowned in households across the planet have achieved this status as they are the ones that redefine what it means to excel.
We understand what Tiger Woods means to the game of golf, just as we are aware of what Usain Bolt represents in the world of athletics. But in the history of Australian Cricket, much of the story remains unwritten.
With his individual idiosyncrasies and his sublime strokeplay, could Steve Smith carve his way into the summer game’s pantheon by the time the sun sets on his career?
The peerless contender
You could compare Smith’s performance to the likes of Virat Kohli, but when one considers Smith’s skills in comparison to his peers, the New South Welshman remains unmatched.
Of course, it’s impossible to give it context to ‘Smudge’s’ greatness without also mentioning Don Bradman, the undisputed legend of Australian cricket. One could very well say that Steve Smith is second only to him. And let’s be honest, that is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Smith is one of the finest Test batsmen to have ever graced Australian cricket. He averages an impressive 64.56 from 68 Tests – which is the second most by any cricketer that has played 20 tests or more.
The only other name that currently comes close is Kohli, with an average of 53.14.
But what is it that is keeping Smith from soaring in the stratosphere with some of the game’s past stars?
For starters, he has shown to have trouble maintaining his form. On top of that, a whole year of his career was eliminated due to suspension.
However, keep in mind that Smith is still relatively young – the former captain only turned 32 this June – meaning he has a lengthy portion of his career still ahead of him. Therefore, there is a view that his full potential is yet to be seen.
The work of a batsman is never easy.
The next Ricky Ponting?
With a Test average of 51.85 over the course of his international career, Ricky Ponting is without doubt one of the greatest cricketers to ever pull on a baggy green cap.
However, since Ponting spends his days commentating or quaffing fine wines these days, his achievements are simpler to assess.
On the other hand, Smith’s career is still well and truly alive and kicking. For this reason, it is impossible to give an accurate assessment of where he’ll stand before stumps are called on his career.
One thing is for sure, if Smith keeps up his current pace, then chances are he will surpass Ponting’s overall statistics.
A big black mark on Smith’s reputation
With that being said, Smith’s reputation is not without stains either.
Remember the ball tampering events taking place in South Africa in March 2018? This resulted in receiving a year long ban from competing. Although he is not the first to have done so, he did cheat. And as the old adage goes, cheaters never prosper.
Not only did Smith let down the fans, he dragged Cricket’s good name down with him (or at least a sizable portion of it). Whether this alone is enough to put the game in a state of crisis, is anyone’s guess. But one thing is for sure – love him or hate him, he has made a name for himself and everyone recognizes him to be one of the greatest.
He can reach the lowest of lows and always finds a way to rise back from the ashes – or as proven 2019, ‘for the ashes’ as well.
Other batsmen can only fantasize about achieving half of what he already has under his belt, and when we remember that we haven’t seen the last of him, his peers and opponents are set to be daydreaming for many summers to come.
Steve Smith stands tall as one of the greatest Test batsmen of all time, second only to Don Bradman – that much remains undisputed.
A much better question, on the other hand, is this – who deserves to claim the title of the third best?
I guess we will see in due time.
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