If there was any need of proof, Steve Smith’s latest innings has confirmed he has a cast iron, steely resolve to win. I don’t think he cracked a smile during his unbeaten 178. Celebrations were very subdued when he reached the century. He even kept a straight face during his very funny dance-come-wrestle with Saha. Kohli is made of similar competitive mettle but I feel he may have made a tactical error in calling Steve Smith a cheat.
It has been clear from the start of this series that Australia has a calm resolve to win. The series may be in the balance but Australia has exceeded all of my expectation. The first Test was a landslide and in the second, the teams were separated by just one partnership. I attribute much of this to Smith. As his own stocks continue to rise, he continues to build a young team around him.
Smith is not the first competitive Australian captain. In fact, he’s just the most recent in a long line. But amongst the determination and at times, churlish outbursts, I find something very boyish and appealing about him. It is true that he doesn’t react to disappointment well, at times. A dropped catch (especially if he was the fieldsman) or a careless, unlucky or unjust dismissal at a critical time can reveal some interesting and immature behaviour. But I don’t mind that in some ways and in small doses. Smith is honest and forthright. These outbursts usually don’t last long, are sometimes followed by an apology and somehow avoid being ugly. It somehow seems different to Ricky Ponting giving Duncan Fletcher a gob full has he walked off the field at Trent Bridge in 2005.
It was quite unbelievable when Smith looked to the Australian dressing room for advice on asking for a referral. It’s clearly against the rules but in the moment of desperation, Smith overlooked this. The umpires were decisive and quickly sent Smith on his way, leaving Kohli behaving like a pork chop. Smith was quick to own that he had a “brain fade”. In the aftermath, Kohli went even further and suggested Australia did this more often and did it twice while he was at the crease.
There was tension over those remarks in the lead-up to the third Test. Smith affirmed he was in the wrong – once – but denied further wrong doing and rightly asked Kohli to be specific. That is, to substantiate his slander with evidence. The media also picked up in this and questioned Kohli at length. Kohli ducked and weaved, refused to elaborate and only reiterated his claim. I don’t know why you would want to add moral high ground to Steve Smith’s already strong drive to win.
I don’t know if Australia can win this match or the series. Commonsense would tend to indicate not but it looks like the captain is going to take them close.