As I watched Steve Smith hit his third century of the current Ashes series, I was struck by the similarities between this brilliant modern batsman and another true legend who plied his trade in an earlier era.
This man also had unorthodox methods that nevertheless worked well enough to take him far beyond the capacity of lesser mortals. He too came from humble beginnings, being a simply country lad who managed – through hard work, determination and belief in himself – to fulfil his dreams. And he too travelled across the sea to drive the English to distraction.
By now you’re probably aware that I am speaking of Jesus Christ.
The more you watch Steve Smith bat, the more you can see just how alike these two unassuming yet extraordinary young men are. The examples keep mounting beyond the obvious parallels like the fact they both looked young for their age and found stem guards uncomfortable.
We know, for one thing, that Jesus took on all the sins of mankind when he was crucified, sacrificing himself to purify the human race.
Likewise, after many decades of appalling behaviour by Australian cricketers, Steve Smith assumed the burden of all Australian cricket’s sins, giving his very flesh and blood and accepting the punishment that all Aussie cricketers deserved. Crucified for ball-tampering, he thus allowed the nation to be cleansed of its sins, and live forever in the light.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, proving that he truly was the Son of God. Steve Smith performed a near-identical miracle at Edgbaston, when he raised the Australian first innings from the dead, proving that he truly was the Son of Peter and Gillian Smith.
And indeed, just as Jesus said to the cripple, “Take up your bed and walk!” so did Steve Smith say to Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon, “Take up your bat and play a correct forward defence!”
Jesus was persecuted mightily during his time on Earth. The Romans and the Pharisees alike sought to destroy him and prevent his message reaching the people. Much like Jofra Archer has persecuted Steve Smith in 2019.
And just as the Romans put Jesus on the cross, Archer laid Smith upon the turf. But Jesus rose from the dead after three days, and his spiritual heir has shown his Christ-like nature by rising from concussion after one and a half Tests.
And as Jesus proved the doubters wrong by showing the holes in his hands, Smith proved his own cynics wrong by showing them the suppleness of his wrists when driving square of the wicket.
One of the most striking similarities between Smith and Christ is the company they keep. Jesus famously travelled with 12 devoted followers, and so does Steve Smith, although two of them will have to carry the drinks at any given time.
Besides his followers, Jesus was known for associating with society’s outcasts: the poor, the sick, the tax collectors and the sex workers. Smith too demonstrates his deep love of humanity by mixing with the most downtrodden and despised of humanity, from David Warner to Matthew Wade.
And just as Jesus advised his followers to turn the other cheek, Smith does not respond to sledging, believing a gentle answer turneth away wrath. “If someone bowls at your off stump,” he says, “turn and offer him your leg stump. And then hit him through midwicket.”
It is through his radical teachings of love and forgiveness that Jesus achieved fame, and like him Steve Smith came to the world’s attention by telling people there was a better way.
Before Jesus, it was considered impossible to love your enemies. Before Smith, it was considered impossible to succeed in Test cricket with exaggerated pre-delivery movements across the crease.
Yet after Jesus came along, to forgive became seen as divine, and after Steve Smith came along, everyone started walking across their stumps.
I am not saying that Jesus Christ and Steve Smith are identical. That would be silly. There are many differences. For example, Steve Smith has no beard, and Jesus Christ has no mobile phone endorsement contracts. Smith never trained as a carpenter, and Christ is a relatively poor close fielder.
But what similarities there are – turning water into wine/good balls into boundaries, driving the money lenders from the temple/English bowlers from the field – speak strongly of a truth that till now we’ve been reluctant to acknowledge.
The truth that Steve Smith is, one way or another, not of this world. He was sent here to show us there was a better way.
He does not seek to scold or to punish, but to teach – you sense that he feels bad about every four he hits, but knows that it’s the only way the bowlers will learn.
More than anything, though, the parallels between Jesus Christ and Steven Peter Devereux Smith show us that Steve Smith loves us, and wants us to be happy. And the message he has come to deliver is that to be happy, all we need do is believe in him, and praise his name.
I’ve accepted Steve Smith into my heart. Will you?