Former Proteas skipper Graeme Smith reckons today’s Test batsmen lack the patience and the “brain” to flourish on overseas soil.
The last overseas batsmen to breach the 1000-run barrier on English soil (1,570 runs in 12 Tests at 67.75), Smith, while talking to Cricbuzz is of the opinion that modern batsmen no longer have the ability in eking out ugly runs against the swinging Dukes ball.
Opening in England is one of the toughest challenges in Test cricket and with only eight men (overseas) having successfully crossed the 1,000 run-mark testifies it to the hilt.
“I just think modern-day batters don’t have the patience any more. They’re not prepared to work through periods,” recounted Smith.
Stating the example of Virat Kohli’s hard-fought 149 at Edgbaston amidst his ‘poetic violence’ with James Anderson, Smith said. “Look at Virat Kohli’s hundred in the Edgbaston game. How long was he under the pump for? He fought and he fought and he fought, and then suddenly it breaks; you get the opportunity to play and the game opens up.
“I just think that little bit has gone out of the modern-day game, certainly in the Test match format.
“That’s why captains drop the field back so quickly – because they know that the modern-day batters want to see boundaries. If they can cut out the boundaries then people get frustrated and play loose shots.
“I think you can play on egos a lot more nowadays than you probably could a few years back.
“You have to have a brain. Sometimes you realise that ‘OK, the wicket is doing a lot, the ball is swinging, I’ve got to fight and fight hard to get through it’.
“So it’s about figuring out and understanding what you’re up against and putting your technique and mindset into the situation.”
Smith, who scored a World record 25 tons as skipper flourished in most of the overseas conditions but the left-hander had a special liking for England where he remained unbeaten on 2008 and 2012 tours and score five tons including a match-winning 150 at Edgbaston in 2008.
On the challenges that the English conditions pose, Smith said, ” The other thing is, batting in England you need to be really aware of the conditions. There’s a big difference batting in England when it’s overcast and cloudy to when it’s sunny.”So just being aware of those situations – when you need to tighten up and when you can afford to attack a bit more and stuff like that. Mentally being a lot more aware, because the wicket may seem to be flat but all of a sudden it clouds over and it starts swinging.”
“When you’re batting in England, the minute you follow the ball you tend to nick it more,” he said.
“If you can play a line and you hold your line, if there’s swing or movement and it beats you, then that’s fine.
“I found that in England because the wickets are a touch slow if you follow the ball or at the last minute feel for something, you tend to edge it.
“So I was quite comfortable playing and missing in England and holding my channels with my bat.”
Smith’s comments come on the backdrop of the ongoing India-England Test series wherein the first three Tests, none of the openers from either side has managed to get past the 50-run mark.