After his first test in charge of the Australian test cricket team, Steven Smith showed poise, humour, tenacity, grit, and positivity.
Michael Clarke watched on from his home in Sydney, live tweeting his thoughts about the game. The crowd and audience were glued to the action in earnest and suspense; more so after India were able to post a competitive total with the bat.
The deterrents the tourists tried to “spray” in Smith’s face didn’t work; he went on to absolutely destroy the tourists, along with some very able assistance from Mitchell Johnson. In the face of pressure, he stood tall, and smashed 133.
Where India went with the negative approach around-the-wicket, Australia opted for some pace, some bouncer barrages, and the traditional banter on the cricket field. If that wasn’t enough, he reminded us how slick he is in the field, snaring a searing one-hander in the slips cordon to dismiss Rohit Sharma in the first innings at the Gabba.
Smith’s natural mentality on the field had him pinpointed as potential captain material well before his appointment two days before the Brisbane test. Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting highlighted in his latest ESPN Cricinfo column that despite being behind the over-rate in Brisbane, Smith’s rise to the challenges before him were exemplary.
These challenges were emphasised when Australia’s pace barrage broke down; first Josh Hazlewood, then Mitchell Marsh, and Mitchell Starc soon followed. Smith knew what needed to be done, and the players executed it, much to India’s chagrin.
Veteran Brad Haddin said on Wednesday that Smith is “a good leader. He’s only young, and he’s going to get better and better in the role.” Those words are powerful, for Smith has had experience captaining at domestic short-form level.
More importantly, Smith showed how to keep a cool head under pressure when fighting to turn a match on its head. Not only that, he attacked India’s spinners.
His energy in the field, his actions as captain, and his attitude towards the game made him a natural choice to lead the side. Now the change has been made, and with Michael Clarke at the age of 33, making a switch from new to old – if that so happens – would now be a backwards step.
The dynamic also changed when Michael Clarke touted there was a possibility he may not pull on his whites again. Future thinking was needed, and the Australian selectors made the right call. Not a rushed call, not a hasty call, but a logical call.
While Haddin’s experience as vice-captain would have served well taking the reins, having him serve as a mentor/advice man to Smith looked even better, and gave him a chance to find his feet at 25.
Former ABC Grandstand commentator, Glenn Mitchell, suggested Clarke – if he once again becomes fully fit – could do a Ponting-esque move; hand over the captaincy and play as a batsman only, with no leadership pressure, except to perform well.
Smith needs one thing above all else to make the captaincy role his, and that is time. It is completely unknown if Clarke will return, and if he did, whether he would put the skipper’s hat back on.
As Ponting said, over-rates need to be improved, or Smith may risk suspension. That will be playing in the back of his mind throughout the Boxing Day Test. His confidence, however, will be the lynchpin to Australia’s aggression.
There’s a long road ahead, and it might be rocky, but it seems Smith doesn’t mind. He just wants to be the best captain for Australia.