C/O Australian Cricket Team
Cape Town, South Africa
Congratulations on a wonderful 12 months with the Australian Test team. Your batting has been a revelation. You should be proud of your role in the Ashes win. And your continued great form in South Africa. I must admit I had doubts about you. Big time. And for a long time. Well at least since I first saw you in a Sheffield Shield game at the MCG very early in your First-Class career. And up until recently.
In that Shield game early in your career you looked like a lower order slogger who bowled some handy wrist spin. Not long after you made your ODI and T20 debuts for your country. Another New South Wales tyro fast-tracked into national colours. You showed a glimpse of talent without being convincing. As a very patriotic Victorian I wrote you off as a poor man’s Cameron White.
Found it hard to fathom when you were picked for your Test debut at Lords against Pakistan in 2010. Returns of 1 & 12 with the bat seemed about right. 3/51 in the Paki’s second dig, after not bowling in the first innings, was impressive though. 77 in the second dig at Leeds (after 10 in the 1st innings) was an impressive knock. But you were rightly dropped. Despite an average 2010/11 season for NSW, you were recalled for the 3rd Ashes Test in Perth. You played out the series, averaged about 30 with the bat and struggled with the ball. My mind was made up. You weren’t a Test player.
A surprise selection for the 2013 tour of India, you were finally picked for the 3rd Test in Mohali. Your 1st innings knock of 92 was superb, your footwork to the spinners was exquisite. 5 in the 2nd innings, 46 & 18 in the 4th Test at Dehli. A good selection for the conditions, but rightly not selected for the Ashes tour. But as you were selected in the ‘A’ team tour of England, Ireland and South Africa, you were asked to stay with the senior team when Boof took over. He liked what he saw in India. And he put you in the team for the first Test in Nottingham. I remember telling people that you were a wonderful player of spin, you would very much struggle in English conditions. 53 & 17 at Nottingham. Maybe I was wrong. 2 & 1 at Lords. Of course I was right. A fabulous 89 in the first innings at Old Trafford, then 19 in the 2nd innings. 17 & 2 at Chester-Le-Street. A wonderful unbeaten 138 at the Oval, but the series was over. Well played Smithy, I said, but show me you can do it on Australian pitches against this great English attack.
After a slow start, tons in Perth and at the SCG in a golden Summer for the team more than cemented your place. But I still had my doubts. “I’ll be convinced if he can do it in South Africa against Steyn, Philander, Morkel and co.” is what I was telling anyone who would listen. I thought they would sort you out. I was wrong. A wonderful even ton at Centurion in the first Test. 49 and 0 at Port Elizabeth. 84 at Cape Town. What else do I need to see to be convinced? You’ve done it on pitches in India, England, Australia and South Africa. Everywhere I said you wouldn’t/couldn’t. Can you handle the emerging Kiwi pace attack in Wellington? Of course you can.
Maybe it was because of your unusual technique. More likely it was because you are from NSW and taking the spot CL White should be taking. Maybe it’s your silly, spiky blonde hair and boyish looks. Whatever it was, I was your biggest critic. I couldn’t see you succeeding at International level. I have said and written many uncomplimentary things about you. But not for a while. What would I know anyway, I’m just an average country cricketer and hack cricket writer.
Boof saw something in you to keep you on that Ashes tour. Boof is a genius and I will never question anything he does again.
So, Steven Peter Devereux Smith, I am sorry. Sorry for doubting you and writing you off. I am finding you extremely watchable when you bat and don’t know if I’ve seen many better on-driver’s. Whether you play that most watchable of shots on the ground or in the air it is a delight to see. But there’s still much to do. An average of 38.97 and 4 tons after 20 Tests is good but will need to improve to have longevity. And your One Day International and T20 International batting records are very poor. But what does that matter if you keep scoring Test tons.
Once again I am sorry for my past negative words and wish you and your Australian team mates every continued success. Just a pity you are from *#@&ing NSW!
Luke, Aussie cricket fan.