On Saturday, 11th November, Australia ended their league matches with a thumping victory over Bangladesh. Mitchell Marsh played a thunderous knock of unbeaten 177 as he singlehandedly tamed the Bangla Tigers. However, for me watching it live from the ground, the Australian maverick Steve Smith stole the show. Not with the bat, but with his antics and madness and liking about his batting. It was a surreal experience watching the Cricket Nerd live from the stadium. The New South Wales batter not just plays cricket, but lives and breathes cricket. He is like a sincere student constantly engulfed in his own world that completely revolves around cricket. Mostly batting or talking about batting.
As I entered the stadium, Steve Smith was getting throwdowns from one of the support staff members. He was engrossed in getting his feet, hands, and the sound of the bat to his liking. It had to be a loud chant of ‘Smith Smith’ that eventually broke him out of the zone as he waved the crowd and it was business as usual thereafter. Glenn Maxwell gave a throwdown to him as he was aiming to leave no stone unturned before the big games ahead. After an extended batting session, Steve Smith finally gave way for David Warner to have some practice before the match.
The Australian number 4 was then seen having a long animated chat with his favorite buddy Marnus Labuschange. Yes, they were only talking about cricket. Steve Smith was doing a shadow practice explaining something to his batting partner. Marnus, who closely follows and imbibes Smith, watched and listened to the modern great with eager eyes and ears. Later he went to do some catching practice.
Steve Smith was standing at slip and point for most of the match. At the start of the innings, standing at second slip, he was again engrossed in his shadow practice playing imaginary dead block defences. That lasted for almost an over and was eventually broken by a field change.
Then with the bat, he scored a much needed half century coming off a vertigo break. He was looking better and better as the innings progressed. He was finding the gaps, getting singles and doubles getting an odd boundary. He was not trying to force the ball as he relied on his timing to find boundaries. He finished off the match with a bottom hundred boundary over mid on as Australia marched on to their 8th consecutive ODI World Cup semifinal.
Even after the match was over, the cricket nerd was talking only about cricket. He was having yet another long animated chat, this time with Glenn Maxwell. He was telling something about the bounce off the wicket and his aerial shots. Maxwell too was earning earnestly to what the genius was saying.
Australia are just two wins away from their sixth ODI World Cup title. Steve Smith is their best bet when it comes to playing pressure moments. Once the knockouts start, Australia is just a different side. Steve Smith with all his shadow practice and endless batting sessions will look to translate his improving form into something monumental when they take on South Africa on Thursday to keep their World Cup run alive.