Australia coach Justin Langer feels Steve Smith is at par with Indian captain Virat Kohli as the world’s best batsman after the comeback-man struck consecutive hundreds in the opening Ashes Test against England.
Langer said it’s credit to Smith that he began his career as a spinner and later transformed into the best batsman in the world.
“Let’s face it; when he (Smith) first came in, leg-spinner, unorthodox… (everyone thought) ‘I’m not sure this kid’s going to make it’. Then he goes away (and decides) ‘I don’t want to be a leg-spinner; I want to be the best batsman in the world’.
“Then he transforms himself and he is the best batsman in the world with Virat. It’s a great credit to him,” Langer said.
“I said during the summer that Virat Kohli is the best player I have ever seen but that (Smith’s knocks) is just another level,” the coach said.
Kohli currently leads the ICC Test rankings, while Smith has moved up to third with his latest performance.
Returning to international cricket after serving one-year ban for the infamous ball-tampering episode in South Africa, Smith struck twin centuries — 144 in first innings and 142 in second — to help his side register a thumping 251-run win against England on Monday.
Langer said Smith’s knocks at Edgbaston showed his mental toughness and traits of a great player.
“You have in different teams, different eras, great players but for someone like Smudge (Smith), who is averaging over 60 and the way he played in this innings with all the pressure and everything that is on him, it was not only great skill but enormous character, enormous courage, very brave, unbelievable concentration, unbelievable physical stamina, unbelievable mental stamina, all traits of great players,” he said.
The former left-handed opener termed Smith a problem-solver of his team, someone who just loves batting for long hours.
“You throw to him in the nets and you literally feel like you can’t get him out and there’s no batsman like that and you just end up throwing a million balls and you are just lost for answers,” Langer said.
“I guess you would have to ask England how they feel about that and they had some interesting tactics for him. They had the really short point which I had never seen before, they obviously had a tactic they prepared and
“Trevor Bayliss has seen a lot of Steve Smith since he was a kid. They would have studied him closely but he just has a knack, well, he is the best problem-solver in the game,” he added.
Langer also praised off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who claimed 6 for 49 in the second innings to seal the win for Australia.
“Like a few of our players, like Steve Smith, I didn’t realise how good Nathan Lyon was until I took over coaching the cricket team,” he said.
“You see him on telly, yeah Nathan Lyon, off-spin bowler, but the last 12 months or so I just can’t believe how good a bowler he is. He’s a brilliant bowler, such good control: he spins, he gets some bounce, great fielder, really good in the team, he’s the song master, so that tells you something about his character.”