MODERN MASTER: This Smith is carving out pure gold
The cricket world has been lucky enough to witness the 'second coming' of this great batsman
Dubai - Everybody deserves a second chance, they say, and Smith, having atoned for his mistake, deserved one too
At the start of this decade, a sprightly young Australian lad made his Test debut at Lord's. He was said to be different, the exception rather than rule. And that had to do more with his unorthodox batting technique.
There were guffaws about it, even more so when it was spoken in Australian cricket circles that he would be the heir apparent to the 'Pup' Michael Clarke.
But then, that unusual technique gave him bucket loads of runs over the years and Steve Smith's name came to be taken in the same breath as the game's elite.
Smith not just batted exceptionally well but he also captained Australia adroitly. He flirted with the No.1 spot in the Test players' rankings along with contemporaries of this age - India's Virat Kohli and England's Joe Root.
Until 'Sandpapergate' happened and that, all but consumed him.
It was a teary affair as he was thrown into the wilderness of the Australian outback for a year. Some called for a harsher punishment, maybe even being banned for life, but thankfully, good sense prevailed.
Just imagine, perhaps, the cricketing world would have been denied the mastery of Smith at England's 'fortress Edgbaston' in the first Ashes skirmish.
Everybody deserves a second chance, they say, and Smith, having atoned for his mistake, deserved one too. But a return to Test cricket, especially when it is against the 'old enemy,' can be nerve-wracking.
Not surprisingly, Smith was greeted with boos, sandpaper and masks with his teary face, in Birmingham. A mere mortal would have buckled under that intense pressure. But not Smith.
He shut out the noise, traversed into a different sphere, and unfurled that famed 'Aussie grit.' The riposte was special, back-to-back centuries, the first one, a brilliant rearguard where Smith batted out of his skin after the chips were down at 122 for eight.
It was almost like Smith swished a magic wand and made an absolute mockery of the English attack. 'Fortress Edgbaston' was fortress no more.
There is an unending debate on who is the best Test batsman in the world - Kohli, Root or Smith? Each one of them have staggering numbers and are class in their own right. But on the evidence of Edgbaston, 'Smudge' nudges past even Kohli, who had racked up 593 runs in a bowler-dominated series against England last year.
Going by the numbers alone, Smith last six innings 239, 76 not out, 102, 83, 144, 142 - speak for themselves. Smith averages 62.96 and with one Test dusted off, he already has 286 runs.
The cricket world has been lucky enough to witness the 'second coming' of this great batsman.
Come to think of it, Smith would've been a legspinner.