Pat Cummins knocks over Indian star with first ball of the innings en route to career-best IPL figures
Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan were no match for the Aussie quick!
Did anyone notice something unusual about the two oddballs Josh Philippe faced in his debut IPL match against Sunrisers Hyderabad?
We’ve been hearing a lot about the youngster in the build-up to IPL 2020. High praise came from Adam Gilchrist, who claimed Josh could be the solution for Australia’s collapse-prone batting order.
That something unusual in the IPL has something to with the man who is extremely familiar with the unusual: Steven Smith.
There are genius people and then there are unique geniuses, and Steve Smith is one of the latter. He has cemented his place among the giants of the game. There are 22 players on the field but mostly only a few players, one or two, steal the show even before the match starts. If Virat Kohli is playing, his charisma and the energy that he brings to the field overwhelms bowlers before he takes the bat in his hand.
Australian cricket has a rich history. Australian fans are not starved of superstars – they never have been and most likely never will be. Victor Trumper, the finest batsman of his generation, dominated the early 1900s. Then came the incomparable Sir Don Bradman, who made grown men cry. He outperformed everyone for 20 straight years.
Ray Lindwall – in whose praise England’s John Warr once said: “If one were granted one last wish in cricket, it would be the sight of Ray Lindwall opening the bowling in a Test match” – along with Keith Miller powered Australian cricket to great heights.
Allan Border, Dennis Lillie, the Waugh brothers, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Ricky Ponting and so on and on – if I started praising each one, this article would turn into a series of books.
Every great cricketer has an impact on the young generation, that is what drives the sport. A young kid playing cricket on a random street of any cricket-loving nation will try to imitate Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers or MS Dhoni if he is a batsman. And if he is a bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, Mitchel Starc or Pat Cummins come to mind.
But Steven Smith has a unique impact on people. He is eccentric, we all know that, and he knows that. Smith does weird stuff, which is somehow pleasing to the eye. The reason we enjoy it is that he is scoring runs for fun. He bats with an unorthodox style, bats like it is his final innings. He is smashing records, and after 80-plus years we finally have someone to (slightly) compare with Sir Don Bradman.
Smith enjoys batting so much that he shadow bats at his home, at dinner parties, in the shower, before going to bed, after waking up. The cricket ground is his paradise.
A guy so dedicated, so in love with the game has to have a significant impact on a cricket-loving nation. When Marnus Labuschagne announced himself in the grandest fashion at the Ashes last year, ironically he was a substitute for Smith. Everyone knew this kid was special, but what we didn’t know was that we were witnessing Smith in another man’s body.
Slowly Marnus was transforming himself into Smith so that when Smith is not playing the opposition would not know. In recent England-Australia series we got a good taste of that. Marnus was jumping and shouting, leaving the ball in Smith’s manner. And we don’t mind that, because he delivers. The last Australian summer was known as the summer of Marnus Labuschagne.
Last night when I was watching Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Sunrisers I was keen to see Josh Philippe bat. He faced only a couple of balls, but the way he faced those two deliveries surprised me. It felt like Steve Smith batting. Josh was moving around like him, moving his hands in the same manner, and looked like him.
I followed this bloke in the BBL, and this is not how he bats. I instantly looked up his batting reels from the last year’s BBL, and you can see the difference vividly.
But we don’t care, do we? If this trend carries on and Australia keeps producing batsman even half as good as Steve Smith, they will give sleepless nights to the opposition, especially England.