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For now, the stands at the legendary Oval in Bridgetown are adorned with the names of some of the most glittering personalities to have emerged from the Caribbean isles. Producing world-class cricketers has been a Bajan tradition over the years. The foremost representatives of Barbadosí rich cricketing legacy have included record-breaking batsmen, menacing pacemen and of course the greatest all-rounder to have played the sport.
The 30-year-old Smith might be a long way off from being counted among his nationís cricketing demi-gods. Probably, that might never happen. But the all-rounder to his credit though did achieve a feat that neither the three Wís or even Sir Garfield Sobers managed by scoring a century on his Test debut back in 2004. A knock that prompted even Vivian Richards to claim that he could see a bit of himself in Smithís stance. Unfortunately, the right-hander never quite managed to live up to that early hype and his international career has had a stop-start course. Over the last few years, however, there have been few cricketers in as much demand as Smith in the T20 franchise world.
Like heís proved it with Mumbai Indians for the second season running, itís his ability to influence match situations and sway momentum in his teamís favour that has been his true calling-card. The IPL might be littered with West Indian talent ó from Chris Gayle to Kieron Pollard and even the unheralded likes of Kevon Cooper and Ravi Rampaul ó and they have taken the tournament by storm. But Smith goes about his business in a rather un-Caribbean fashion. Understated, calm and steadfast with little or no display of overt emotion.
There is however, an unmistakable flair, uniquely characteristic of the West Indies, in his ability to smash the leather off a cricket ball. And though he might not attract the kind of attention that his fellow six-hitters do, there are few cleaner clubbers of a cricket ball than Smith. And itís been his power-hitting that has lifted Mumbai Indians from the bottom pile to the top-four in the IPL VI table. On both occasions, his half-centuries at the top of the order also provided the perfect platform for the explosive Mumbai middle-order to get into their own. Not surprising then that Smithís nickname as a youngster in club cricket was `Agentí, short for being his teamís change-agent. The hostsí hopes against Kings XI Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium on Monday will once again ride on the aggressive Smithís opening salvo.
And to think that Smithís elevation to the top of the order came at the expense of skipper Ricky Ponting. The Bajan has done exactly what was asked of him by making up for the slow starts that Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar were mustering up previously. Last year too Smith had arrived in Mumbai as a mid-season replacement for Mitchell Johnson and made an immediate impact by winning them a match against Chennai Super Kings with a last-ball six off Ben Hilfenhaus. He then finished the season opening with Tendulkar, scoring an unbeaten 58-ball 87 in his maiden outing.
And itís as an opener that he has really found his mojo in T20 cricket. Till a few seasons ago, Smithís career was on the decline. West Indies seemed no longer interested in him, and even his frequent match-winning performances for Sussex were slipping under the radar. Then came a vacancy in Barbadosí opening department, which Smith gleefully accepted. From there heís not looked back. A stellar season for Khulna Royal Bengals followed, where apart from scoring 346 runs at 43.25, he also scored his maiden T20 ton. It even earned him a recall to the West Indies team. Though he only got to play a single match in his teamís historic World T20 triumph, Smith has continued his golden run as a T20 power-player.