Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar and..?
Debates about who joins this company will never end. Perhaps no other player does.
The next rung on the ladder is impressive and difficult to split.
Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis, Kumar Sangakarra, AB de Villiers, Alastair Cook, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting. That’s just the modern era.
Viv Richards, Desmon Haynes, Garry Sobers, Greg Chappell, Graeme Pollock, George Hedley.
We could go on, but we are trying to determine if anyone joins the elitest of the elite: Bradman and Tendulkar.
There’s Steve Smith. The fastest player to 22 hundreds in the history of Test cricket. Faster than Bradman, faster than Tendulkar. He scored his 22nd hundred at Perth today. He is now more than half way to Ricky Ponting’s 41, the most of any Australian.
It took Ponting 168 matches to make 41 Test tons. Smith has 22* from 58* matches.
It took Tendulkar 200 matches to make 51 Test tons and 15921 Test runs.
Smith has a third of Tendulkar’s runs (5650* and counting) from just over a quarter of the matches. His Test batting average is 62 and he averages over 73 as Australian captain. He is only 28 and his numbers are outrageous.
How far can Smith go?
For purists there is some doubt. A sense that you cannot forge a great career with that style.
Smith has no right with that technique. So unconventional it’s a disgrace: back and across and squaring up. When he does get out LBW it is ugly. But it is mightily effective.
He scores runs all around the ground against all forms of bowling and the shots, when executed, look as good anyone else’s.
He can attack, be patient, withstand fire and pace and unlike many Australian batsmen of the recent past, Smith is not a flat track, home ground bully.
He has scored runs everywhere.
He has three tons in England, including a double at Lords, tons at home against Pakistan, West Indies, New Zealand, India and England. A ton away in South Africa, another in Sri Lanka, another in the Caribbean, another in New Zealand and three centuries in India.
The quality of bowling across an era is a factor.
Smith has not faced the best of the West Indies or Pakistan but he has faced some of the best ever from England and excellence from South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
Smith’s contemporaries include Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Joe Root.
Kohli and Smith are in front of the other two and on numbers and spread of hundreds across the globe, Smith is ahead of India’s new legend.
Debating greatness will fill many more columns and drive raucous arguments around the bar, but it is now undeniable that Steve Smith is worthy of inclusion in all discussions.