Dear Steve, I Was Wrong

SPD Smith

C/O Australian Cricket Team

Cape Town, South Africa

Dear Steve,

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!

Regards

Luke, Aussie cricket fan.

About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic.

Comments

  1. Peter Schumacher says:

    Good stuff, Smith has been a revelation for a lot of us I reckon.

  2. Mickey Randall says:

    Agreed Luke. He’s done well. Remember the other Steve from Sydney who took about 25 Tests to finally get a ton? He also kicked on! Smith’s bowling’s really fallen away though.

  3. Magnets says:

    Well said Luke.

    Where do you stand on D Warner and P Hughes?

    For what it’s worth, I am completely gob-smacked by Warner; could never foresee his technique holding up, let alone dominating in Test cricket. Brilliant 1st innings ton. Hughes; I still think he must be a good player due to his record, and will make a good test player, but don’t know why!

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Luke I think nearly all of us thought Smith wasn’t good enough what constantly surprised me was the enormous respect and support he received with in the inner circle of cricket with out exception every 1 said give him time ( Not necessarily from NSW either ) and he will make it . Ironic that now he is odds on to be our next test captain .
    Thanks Mr 300 !

  5. Smith has been a revelation. Now he is playing the role which best suits him, we can see him deliver the promise, the selectors saw a long time ago. The early experiements of him primarily a bowler, or a de facto all rounder. Well done.

    Cameron White was unlucky, though he didn’t seize his chances; at any level of the international game. A fantastic, destructive batsmen at his peak, his inability to regularly get off to a good start cost him dearly. Pity. As it was, the other Victorian C White, played many more tests; though these were for England.

    Glen!

  6. Nice to admit when you are wrong. I wish a panelist on my Sports show who labelled Calrke as the worst Australian Captain ever would do the same.

  7. Andrew Starkie says:

    Can you apologise for me too? Smith’s entry into Test cricket was truly tragic – and cruel. He bowled spin, had blonde hair and Warney liked him. ‘He’s ready’, Warney told the media after 5 minutes in the nets. The fact he had played a handful of first class games was irrelevant. He was in against the Poms. They laughed at him from the slips. So far out of his, it was painful to watch. I honestly thought Smith would go the way of a dozen or so other spinners since Warney’s retirement – oblivion. What Smith had learned to do since is bat. His natural instinct is to flay at everything outside off, however he has succesfully fought this urge of late. Shot selection has improved greatly.

    If we win this Test, it will be one of the great victories. Cmon Aussies

  8. DBalassone says:

    Have to put my hand up as well. I was flabbergasted when they recalled him as a specialist bat – it seemed on the back of a few half centuries at Shield level, but the selectors obviously know a lot more than we do. What really impressed me was those centuries at the WACA and SCG when all else was falling around him. Showed great composure and I love a batsman who hits the ball cleanly along the ground to all parts. Beautiful technique. How wrong can you be? Great summation by the way Luke – I didn’t realise he played earlier in 2010 against Pakistan. I thought he debuted in the Ashes series of 2010/11.
    Can’t wait for tonight – what a great performance by the Aussies – the only thing that worries me is if Clarke gets “too cute” with a declaration. He should not give SAF any chance whatsoever – they don’t deserve it. Anything under 450 in 4 and half sessions is crazy. Call me a worry-wart but I’ve got a strange premonition that Clarke will one day get caught out with a premature declaration. Hope I’m wrong on that too!

  9. Who’d’ve thought we’d have the good Smith!
    He’s improved – you weren’t necessarily wrong that he did not look up to it…we just could not foresee the improvement.

  10. Andrew Starkie says:

    SA’s only chance is for Clarke to declare early, which he probably will.

  11. E.regnans says:

    These S Africans are safety-first (see Boxing Day aborted run chase v India)
    Reckon they were playing for the draw from Day 1.
    See MJ Clarke having a couple of overs at them before lunch today…

  12. E.regnans says:

    And great call, Luke.
    Super research & recall of your cricket back-catalog. Well played SPD Smith.

  13. Peter_B says:

    In the unlikely event that Phil Hughes makes it back to the Test side, I have little concern that I would have to issue a similar mea culpa – save against medium pacers on flat decks.
    I don’t think you needed to apologise Luke. You were merely offering Smith objective feedback and motivation for improvement.
    I offered large and voluble amounts to the Eagles last year. Early signs are that they are prepared to listen to me (and some bloke called Simpson) this year.

  14. Luke Reynolds says:

    Thanks Peter S
    Good comparison Mickey! Yes his bowling has dropped right away.
    Thanks Magnets. I’ve always thought Warner’s technique was sound, less convinced about his shot selection and concentration. He seems to have that sorted this Summer too.
    Don’t think Hughes’ technique stands up at Test level but obviously does at Shield level. Reminds me a lot of Michael Bevan.
    Thanks Malcolm. Spot on re the captaincy. Hopefully we can get a few more years out of Clarke.
    Glen- Cameron White didn’t seize his chance at Test level where he was tried as a spinner and number 8. Would have liked to have seen him get a crack at number 6 at some stage but can’t see that happening now. Craig White made the right move in playing for England, there’s no way he would have got a game for Australia in that era!
    Thanks Raj
    Andrew, he’s turned himself into a very good player. What a win this will be if we can bowl them out.
    Thanks Damian. That 2010 Pakistan series is easy to forget. He did bat really well in the second innings at Headingley.
    Crio, despite his poor form I was totally shocked by G.Smith’s retirement.
    Thanks David. Seems we are playing safety first at the moment.
    Peter B- isn’t it great when they listen to our objective feedback?!! Sounds like the eagles are ready to hit the season running.

  15. Tony Robb. says:

    A poor man’s Cameron White. If White was the high water mark it must have been a drought for the ages

  16. Andrew Starkie says:

    I think we’ve got em. Damo, Clarke was nearly caught out in the final Test in England. Not today. SA look spent

  17. DBalassone says:

    Yes AS, very happy with that declaration. SAF did not deserve to have a sniff here, and you have to remember they have a great batting lineup, so giving them 400 in 5 sessions on a wicket that seems to be playing okay, would have been madness.

    Luke, I concur with you about Cam White. I too would have liked to see him given a go at no.6 a few years back. I wonder if he was afforded the same opportunities as Bailey if he would have seized the day at test level. It seems White was cast aside from all formats because of a disastrous BBL series 2 years ago. That’s not the way to judge a test cricketer, surely? When the Vics won back to back Shields a few seasons back, White was batting as well as anyone in the country.

  18. Andrew Starkie says:

    Agree about White. There still maybe a middle order spot for him.

  19. Cameron White is unlucky. Touring India as a front line spin option did not work out. He’s a better batsmen than bowler. however when options in the middle order had opened in previous seasons, his form with the bat had become so patchy he wasn’t really an option.

    At one day level he seemed to blow his chances; he made some good knocks, but seemed to have problems starting his innings. Often he’d not be able to place the ball for early singles, being unable to turn over the strike, and then he’d find himself out. In matches when he’d get set, he regularly flayed attacks, but this did not happen enough to save his spot.

    it is hoped he can at least maintain a spot in our ODI, and the T-20 sides as he’s a fine cricketer.

    Glen!

  20. I also bagged Smith, but he won me over during the recent Ashes series. Can’t remember which Test, but he showed a lot of heart. He looks like a blonde TinTin, and not your AB-type dogged fighter, but there’s plenty of fight in him.

  21. Luke Reynolds says:

    Damian- agree with all your points. A horrible big bash season cost him big time, when his ODI for and T20 international form had been quite good.
    Glen – he does struggle a bit starting, but if he gets going not many more damaging players in World cricket. Hope he can win his ODI spot back
    Spot on Cookie, Smith has far more fight in him than I originally credited him with.

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