Steve Smith speaks to the media during a press conference at the Gabba.
Steve Smith speaks to the media during a press conference at the Gabba. GETTY IMAGES

NSW batsman Steve Smith now cricket's top dog

HE replaced Michael Clarke in the one-day series against South Africa last month after the Australian captain re-injured his hamstring.

He also replaced Clarke as Australia's second-highest batsman on the ICC rankings after making a career-high 162 not out in the first Test against India in Adelaide last week.

And now 25-year-old New South Wales batsman Steve Smith has taken the captaincy from the injured skipper for the second Test starting at the Gabba tomorrow.

Considered a future leader after making his Test debut against Pakistan at Lord's in July 2010, Smith will become Australia's 45th Test captain, and the third-youngest behind Ian Craig and Kim Hughes.

Having already spent time as captain of New South Wales at Sheffield Shield level, and of the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League, Smith said he would look to players such as vice-captain Brad Haddin to help him carry out the role.

"I've had a bit of leadership experience with New South Wales and the Sydney Sixers. I know at the Sixers I had some older heads there with Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill, and to lead those guys it was a big thrill," Smith said.

"I know coming out here our senior guys will support me 100% and Brad Haddin, who I'm very close with as vice-captain, will be right behind me."

Smith said he had always tried to think like a captain while on the field, and regularly offered suggestions to Clarke and Haddin about strategies relevant to the game at the time.

He also said he wouldn't look to implement major changes to the way Clarke had been leading the side.

"As a captain first and foremost I'll try to lead from the front with my performance on the field, and with regards to tactics I think we've been pretty good this year," he said.

"Pup (Clarke) has been amazing with what he's done and the group we've got at the moment going forward. I don't think there's any real need for a big change there."

Smith has come a long way since that match at Lord's when he took three wickets and made just one and 12.

Eventually dropped, Smith went back to state cricket and turned himself into a world-class batsman who could also bowl.

He brought up his first Test century in last year's Ashes series in England, making an unbeaten 138 at The Oval.

He has since made four more, including 100 against the much-vaunted Proteas pace attack in South Africa in February this year, the innings he personally rated as his best.

Smith's 779 Test runs this calendar year, including the unbeaten 162 in Adelaide, have lifted him five places to No.8 on the ICC batting rankings, with Clarke dropping down to No.12 despite his own century in the first innings. David Warner is still the leading Australians at No.4.

National selector Rod Marsh admitted Smith's elevation to the top job ahead of Haddin, taking into account Clarke's uncertain future, was a clear pointer to the future.

"There was a strong argument for Brad to assume the captaincy until Michael returns, but given we don't know how long that will be, we felt the time was right to take a longer-term view and give a young player this chance," Marsh said.

STEVE SMITH BY THE NUMBERS

  • 5 - Number of Test centuries
  • 14 - Test wickets
  • 23 - Tests for Australia
  • 25 - Age
  • 45 - Australia's 45th Test captain
  • 162 - Highest Test score


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