There is a rule we subscribe to here at 51allout that stands as a simple barometer of cricketing intelligence. Succinctly, if you refer to Steve Smith as an allrounder, you are so clearly lacking in even basic cognitive abilities that paying any more attention to any of your other opinions would be a complete waste of time. Despite what his Cricinfo biography states (where he’s still the ‘new Shane Warne’, natch), Steven Peter Devereux Smith is not an allrounder and hasn’t been for some time. His contribution in last year’s IPL was about two overs in a game that was already gone (not an unfamiliar scenario for Pune, sadly). In the Sheffield Shield this season he has bowled 15 overs, quite a few of them as an off-spinner. He publicly admitted quite some time ago that he wants to be considered for selection purely because of his batting. As far as we are concerned at least, that’s quite a bit of evidence to support the conclusion that Smith is not an allrounder.
Now, it takes quite a bit to get us mad here at 51allout. Like people making fun of our console of choice, the Wii U (it’s awesome, honest). And in all honesty the article ‘Why Steve Smith’s Test Selection Stinks’ in the Sun Herald didn’t really upset us all that much. Like an Xbox 360 fanboy mocking the Wii U’s lack of games, it just served to annoy us. A bit. Perhaps. We’re not going to link to said article; Google will find it easily enough for you and we don’t want to take any responsibility for the fact that its editing (or lack thereof) will probably make your eyes bleed. Instead we’ll just highlight the important bits and why they are terribly, terribly flawed.
First of all we should point out this article was written by a Victorian. Even if the fact it was published in a Melbourne paper didn’t tip you off, the obligatory mention of Brad Hodge should be enough. So what we have, above anything else, is a typical south of the border work, typified by its fear and loathing of everything to do with New South Wales Cricket. A classic work of the brown paper bag brigade. For those of you unaware of this particular phenomenon, it’s a debilitating illness whereby Victorians begin suffering severe stomach ulcers at the mere thought of another New South Welshman pulling on the baggy green ahead of one of their own. The fact that not one, but two, Victorians were omitted from the Australian team for the third Test (Matt Wade due to injury, Glenn Maxwell due to being Glenn Maxwell), was probably the spark that gave birth to this particular missive.
So let’s get down to details. The first point is that the author calls Steve Smith a ‘failed allrounder’. Well, yes. In the same way he is also a failed wicketkeeper. Smith gave up the leg-spinning role in order to concentrate on his batting, a decision which would appear to have been wholly justified since he has now returned to the Test team for the first time since January 2011. So to pick on the fact he hasn’t been bowling a lot of late is to so miss the point that we suspect the author is not sure of what his point was in the first place. Smith is in the team for his batting. The fact he may have bowled in the past is irrelevant. Do people refer to Kevin Pietersen as a failed offspinner? [Editor’s note: no, but if we ever get to meet him we definitely will]
The author rails against the fact that Smith is merely the 23rd top-scorer in the Sheffield Shield this season, indicating that he is at least capable of manipulating the statistics on Cricinfo. In which case he might have noted one more important detail: Steve Smith has only played five Shield games this season, with the small matters of selection for the Australian ODI squad, and now the current Indian tour, having gotten in the way. He might also have noted that Smith has scored far more runs than Michael Clarke this Shield season too. Maybe Pup should be looking over his shoulder.
The author then rubbishes the reasoning that Smith was picked in order to give a fringe youngster a chance, by way of reasoning that neither Tim Paine or Chris Hartley were selected as backups for the injured Matt Wade. Comparing wicketkeepers to batsmen is clearly insane, particularly considering Australia have a well-advertised lack of experienced batsmen in light of the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, whilst also possessing a surfeit of decent ‘keeping options. Beyond this, however, the selection of Haddin was a no-brainer; not only are the Australian management clearly fans, but only a few months ago he was announced as the best ‘keeper in Australia in a poll taken amongst his peers (gathering 44% of the votes compared to 27% for Wade. Rob Quiney probably got the other 29%). Not a terribly good comparison then.
The author is on somewhat safer ground when he then makes the point that Steve Smith’s average in the Shield this season (37) is inferior to that of many of his peers. While true, the differences are hardly massive either. Callum Ferguson, a player the author suggests as a more appropriate option, has an average of 37.18 this season while Cameron White’s is 39.41. Arguing over such numbers is to forget, however, why Smith was selected for the tour in the first place: his ability to play spin bowling. A marginally better average on home decks is no real argument for selection in Test matches played in India. Look at Phil Hughes, an average of 56.08 in the Shield this season, and an average of zero against spin in India. Smith further emphasized this point when he amassed the second best score of the innings in his only hit out on the tour thus far.
Just to reinforce the overwhelmingly confusing tone of the whole piece, the author then closes off by championing the credentials of the retired Ricky Ponting, on the basis that he has an admittedly excellent average in the Shield this season, and the fact he scored a century against Victoria. As if performing against Victoria was somehow a necessary prerequisite for international selection. He closes his article by stating that Chappelli would be giggling at the prospect of Ashwin bowling to Steve Smith over Ponting. Can we just point this out one final time? Ponting is retired. Remember that send off South Africa gave him in that game in Perth? Let it go. He isn’t coming back.
Admittedly we’re likely to react adversely to any negative comment on the topic of Steve Smith, but this particular article is so redolent in absurd logic that we can only assume the author was still frothing at the mouth over the fact his beloved Victorians had been beaten by six wickets inside three days last time out. By who? New South Wales of course. It must have been such a bitter pill to swallow.