Cricket

Steve Smith appointed captain

The 25-year-old New South Welshman Steve Smith (in picture) will lead Australia in the remaining three Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.

The 25-year-old New South Welshman Steve Smith (in picture) will lead Australia in the remaining three Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.   | Photo Credit: V_GANESAN

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His talent, youth and tactical sophistication wins him the job

With the willow, Steve Smith is light on his feet. Many believe he thinks on his feet too.

The 25-year-old New South Welshman will lead Australia in the remaining three Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.

Cricket Australia, on Monday, appointed Smith as vice-captain of the Test side. This means he will lead the side in the ongoing series; skipper Michael Clarke has already been ruled out with a tear in his right hamstring.

Brad Haddin, who captained aggressively as Clarke’s understudy in the final session of that captivating Test at the Adelaide Oval, misses out.

Clarke backed Haddin after the first Test for the top job. The selectors, however, opted for Smith’s talent, youth, tactical sophistication as seen in him leading New South Wales to Sheffield Shield triumph in the final last year, and his rousing form.

In a break from a long Australian tradition, Haddin, the vice-captain under Clarke, will not be elevated. Instead, he will now be Smith’s deputy.

Smith, whose batting has blossomed after a period of frustration, was confident of Haddin’s support. “I’m extremely close to Brad (Haddin) and when I told him yesterday that Rod (Marsh) called me, I think he knew what was going on. He’s over the moon for me, he’s proud as punch. I’m certainly going to look to Brad out there as Michael (Clarke) always does. He’s a terrific team man and he’s got a great cricket brain as well. He’s certainly someone I can lean on out in the middle as well.”

Balanced and assured

Smith’s unbeaten innings of 162 and 52 in the first Test against India — he was so balanced and assured at the crease — perhaps sealed it for him. He has been seen as someone with leadership qualities from his junior days.

India has been the team of destiny for Smith. It was on the tour of India in 2013 that he revived his sagging Test career with a well-made 92 in the Mohali Test. Subsequently, Smith consolidated his position in the Australian Test side. In the back-to-back Ashes series, he made 138 not out at the Oval, 111 in Perth and 115 in Sydney impressing many with his poise, understanding of situations and range of strokes.

Then came his 100 in Centurion against Dale Steyn & Co., an innings that Smith considers his best in Test cricket so far.

The man who made his Test debut against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010 has 1749 runs in 23 Tests at 46.02. He said patience, in contrast to his impulsive ways earlier, had turned his career around.

There are some in Australia who see shades of the great Ian Chappell in Smith’s batting, particularly the manner in which he dances down to the spinners.

Given his ability in his younger days, Smith is still an under-achiever in Tests with the ball having 14 scalps in 23 matches. Can he revive his leg-spin as well?

Smith was delighted with his appointment. He said, “It’s obviously been a pretty whirlwind 18 months for me personally. The team has done well too.”

He called it a dream come true. “It’s something that I’ve always dreamt of doing. To now have the opportunity to lead Australia in a Test match and the rest of this series, it’s an amazing thrill.”

Smith, among the youngest Australian captains at 25, said he would not depart from Clarke’s attacking style: “We’ve come a long way and we’ve been playing some very good cricket and we’re going to continue playing that aggressive, positive brand of cricket.”

At the ’Gabba, captain Smith will be eyeing glory.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 6:42:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/steven-smith-to-become-australias-45th-test-captain/article6692690.ece

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