Note – this was written before Christmas.
Dmitri Number Five celebrates an overseas cricketer who made an impact on me this year. There were a number, including Kane Williamson, who has had an amazing year by anyone’s standards, AB DeVillers for the sheer verve of his batting and the skills he brings, and given my love of West Indian cricket, I was particularly pleased to see Jason Holder’s maiden test hundred, although the body and weight of his work has a long way to go to match those above.
However, I have to give this Dmitri to Steve Smith. On a personal level, I was there when he completed his double hundred at Lord’s, so in that sense his batting had a direct impact on me, but also the fact that he would deliver regularly for his team, including the greatness of scoring a 199! He scores quickly, with a hand-eye co-ordination to die for, despite having a technique only his mother could love. He has taken over the Australian captaincy without missing a beat, being the key man to dismiss and with a steely ruthlessness that our own Iron Man can only envy.
This won’t be a long piece. Smith is accused of being a bit flaky outside off stump, and has attracted the ire of some of our press corps already. Many of them committed Smith to the dustbin of irrelevance as the Aussies picked him in the fateful 2010/11 Ashes team, where he was derided for a poor technique and seen as being more there for his leg spin bowling. In 2013 he made his first hundred at The Oval, having made an important score at Old Trafford in support of Michael Clarke. In the following series he was also there to make crucial hundreds to win test matches, a very decent habit he gets himself in to. The double at Lord’s this time around, and his hundred at The Oval were key in winning both games. In between that he feasted on Indian bowling in the last test series, had a decent World Cup, took major runs off South Africa in their last ODI series and became Australia’s main man.
There was a large groundswell of support from certain sites and Twitter personalities for Smith that, frankly, I didn’t get. Probably not hipster enough. But his performances this year have been exciting, mountainous, and combined with the captaincy, inspirational. We may not take too kindly to some of his mannerisms – he is quite abrasive, it seems, as captain as evidenced by the Stokes incident – but he’s a fine player who played for the World Champions. Congratulations came from many quarters as he won the ICC Player of the Year award. This pales into insignificance compared to a Dmitri, I know.
Let me explain, just for the record, that I’m not measuring the greatest performances, but someone who impacted on me the most. Many will say Kane Williamson, and they would not be wrong, but Smith’s reaction to and performances after the Philip Hughes tragedy, and the way he’s gone about his business since swayed me. Kane’s century last weekend made the decision tighter, but I’d already made up my mind. Steve Smith gets the second International Dmitri Award, following Brendon McCullum.
After I wrote this piece, Smith moved to the top of the run-scoring charts for the calendar year with a candy-from-a-baby hundred against West Indies. Redemption for the selection!