Perceptions: Steve Smith. Photo: Chrisopher Lane
FORMER Australian all-rounder Steve Smith said his non-selection in either of the three national cricket teams this summer made it painfully clear he needed to change a perception he was cricket’s new ”party boy”.
Smith, 22, had not played for Australia in any of the game’s three formats – Tests, one-day internationals or Twenty20 – since he scored 26 runs and took 1-24 in last October’s ODI loss to South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
Despite support from the likes of Stuart MacGill and others who commended the leadership qualities Smith displayed as captain of Sydney Sixers, the Big Bash League’s inaugural champions, he openly acknowledged the selectors had demanded he take more wickets and score runs.
”There seems to be a little something out there,” said Smith of his unwelcome party-boy tag.
”For me, I think it is just about being a little bit smarter with my time and picking the right time to do things like [go out].”
Smith, who has already played five Tests for Australia, admitted it had cut him deeply to be overlooked for Australia’s Twenty20 and one-day sides. But he said he was constantly learning and looking to improve every facet of his game. He dismissed the notion that the current trend by the selectors to pick a battalion of youngsters such as himself, Phil Hughes (23), Pat Cummins (18), Mitchell Marsh (20), James Pattinson (21) and Mitchell Starc (22) meant there may be a sense of entitlement for them to wear the Australian colours.
”I don’t think anyone ever takes playing for Australia for granted … it is a huge privilege and honour,” he said. ”Every time you go out there you’re determined to do well.”
Smith said his role as captain of the Sixers proved to be an eye-opener. ”Captaining the Sixers was a huge stepping stone,” he said. ”It was something I enjoyed.”
Yesterday Smith responded to the edict from the national selectors to focus more on his leg-spin bowling, with a four-wicket haul for his Sydney grade team, Sutherland, against St George.
”There was an emphasis placed on my bowling,” he said. ”I know it is one of the things that can definitely be improved and that comes down to the way how I train. I guess it comes down to the fact that I have focused on my batting and not devoted the time I’ve needed to bowling in the nets. Again, it is a matter of me managing my time in the right way and ensuring I get the volume with the ball as well.”
Smith’s manager, Warren Craig of Titan Management, was working to secure him a deal with an English county side so he could get more bowling in his boots. In the meantime, Smith revealed he was working closely with former Test player Greg Matthews to fine-tune his technique.
”I’m working hard on it but, while it is expected to take time, I’m hoping it comes quick and I get some consistency with it,” he said.
Smith’s immediate intention was to help New South Wales salvage its Sheffield Shield season after a humiliating loss to Western Australia.