This is the way Peter Lalor, the Australian newspaper cricket reporter began his piece in the aftermath of Australia’s victory in the First Test match against England in Edgbaston:
They will know this as the Steve Smith Test. The result will be a footnote, the other 21 participants just courtiers in his royal presence. His scores cannot be ignored, but it is the context that has made them so compelling.
For me his effort at Edgbaston epitomizes mental strength, concentration, hard work and redemption. To blot out all the hostile noise, to come in when the team is on the brink of defeat, to withstand a wicket which was unpredictable, to face up to different field settings and in the end just keep scoring runs. Mental strength to that degree is uncommon. Smith is in rarefied air.
Cricket is a game of precision. It requires utmost concentration. One moment of day-dreaming can wreak havoc on a cricket field. Steve Smith’s concentration is unparalleled. He is in a league of his own. Something we can all learn from. A habit we can form. There is no substitute in life for hard work. Even the gifted have to work at their craft. Nature is one thing, honing the skill is another.
Since Smith’s banishment from the international scene, he still practised in his backyard, at the nets, with friends and now strutting his talent once again on the big stage. He practised and practised during his time away from the spotlight. His hard work has paid off.
Redemption. Peter Lalor again: ‘They still booed when he walked to the wicket on day four but by the time he made his hundred and walked from the ground all but a foolish few had applauded his brilliance.’ Smith has paid his dues. He has paid the price for his moral meltdown. Cricket redemption, big time.
These are things to develop throughout life, mental strength, concentration, hard work and rejoicing in redemption when we see it. Yes, we learn these thing from saints. We see them too in our fellow travellers. Steve Smith exemplifies them in spades. It is good to see him back.
Fr Peter Rankin SDB - Rector