Steve Smith: Is the 'Best Since Bradman' on decline, a look into numbers

Steve Smith: Is the 'Best Since Bradman' on decline, a look into numbers
Image source: ICC

New Delhi, India: Star Australian batter Steve Smith has not been having best of the times as an opening batter, as his downward slump continued during the first Test against New Zealand in Wellington.

During the first Test, he was dismissed for 31 in 71 balls by Matt Henry and then later for a three-ball duck in the second inning by Kiwi skipper Tim Southee. This has added to Smith's lean run that started just during the start of the new ICC World Test Championship cycle.

Is opening really an ideal spot for Smith? Have we seen the best of this maestro in white clothing? One needs to dive into statistics.

Ever since opening, Smith has registered scores of 12, 11*, 6, 91*, 31 and 0, which equals to 151 runs in six innings at an average of 37.75. Though the sample size is really short, Smith still has not looked at his best while opening.

Coming to his overall Test numbers since the start of the WTC cycle 2023-25, they have been pretty underwhelming for someone who is really well the measuring stick to define consistency and greatness in Tests. In 11 Tests under the new cycle, Smith has scored just 718 runs across 22 innings at an average of 37.78, with just a century and four fifties. His best score is 110.

Though he is still the fourth-highest run-getter in the current cycle, he has been outscored by England's Zak Crawley (808 runs in nine matches at an average of 47.52), Usman Khawaja (916 runs in 11 matches at an average of 43.61) and most recently India's young opening sensation Yashasvi Jaiswal (971 runs in eight Tests at an average of 69.35).

During this period, Smith has often failed to make most of his fine starts, often failing in 30s and 40s or without converting a half-century into a century. Also, this whole time, Smith's strike rate has been 50.42, lower than his career strike rate of 53.54. His average has taken a hit as well, going down to 57.52 from 60.04 just after his match-winning ton in the ICC World Test Championship final against India.

The 34-year-old batter's peak years from 2014 to 2019, during which he transitioned from a potential leg spin bowling great to the 'Best Since Don Bradman' in Tests, are some of the greatest for a player in the longer format. In this time period, Smith scored 6,194 runs in just 56 Tests and 99 innings at an average of 72.02, with 24 centuries and 23 fifties. His best score was 239. During these years, his strike rate was 56.92.

Since January 1, 2020 though, Smith's Test numbers have declined sharply, scoring 2,501 runs in 36 Tests at an average of 46.31, with six centuries and 13 fifties in 63 innings. His best score is 200*. Though these numbers are still dream-like for any other world-class batter, it just does not seem enough for Smith. The batter's strike rate in this period has gone down to 48.42.

Smith's average has gone down drastically since the Ashes of 2019, which is arguably the last time he dropped an all-time great campaign during a big tournament/series. During the time of completion of his fourth appearance, Smith averaged 64.56, which has dropped to 57.52 now, a big drop of around seven runs in five years.

Coming to all-time great campaigns, it has been a while since Smith has set the cricketing world ablaze with an all-time great campaign in a big bilateral series or an ICC tournament.

Since 2022-23, this has been Smith's numbers during big tournaments/big series:

-Ashes 2021-22: 244 runs in five matches at an average of 30.5, with two fifties.

-Border Gavaskar Trophy: 145 runs in four matches at an average of 29, with the best score of 45.

-Ashes 2023: 373 runs in five matches at an average of 37.30, with a century and two fifties in 10 innings.

-ICC Cricket World Cup 2023: 302 runs in 10 matches at an average of 33.55, with two fifties in 10 innings.

Is the best of Smith past him or will he be able to rediscover his Midas touch with the home Border-Gavaskar Trophy series coming around late this year? Only time will tell.