On the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, the panel, hosted by Yas Rana, discussed those players who improved rapidly later in their careers, and clashed over whether Australia batsman Steve Smith, who came into the side as a leg-spinner, fit the bill.
Wisden Cricket Monthly staff writer James Wallace proposed Smith, and the former Australia captain seems a perfect fit for the criteria. On his debut in 2010 as a 21-year-old, Smith batted at No.8 and No.9, and it wasn’t until three years later that he made his first Test hundred. Now he is rated by many as the best to have held a bat since Don Bradman.
However, wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner disagreed. Here’s how the debate unfolded.
James Wallace: There’s a really obvious one in Steve Smith, brought in as a jokey leg-spinner who batted at No.8.
Yas Rana: I knew Ben would have his finger up at this! I think Ben’s going to object.
Ben Gardner: It’s just that, the thing with Steve Smith is that, he obviously was picked originally as a leg-spinner to bat at eight, but that was more to do with the Australian selectors wanting to find the new Shane Warne than that being what he actually was. I think he was always really a batsman, and in the Shield season before he won a call-up he made four hundreds and averaged about 80. There were the signs that he would be a very good batsman even at that age. But you’re obviously right that as an international player it took him a while to get into his groove.
JW: It took him a while, and you could see how the selectors were really clutching at straws because they picked Smith to be the dressing room banter merchant and anyone who’s seen The Test can see that that really isn’t his role and he’s out of his comfort zone doing that.
The Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast is available on Spotify and the Podcast app