Australia’s captain Steve Smith and understudy David Warner have become competitors, but their rivalry is unlikely to disrupt or divide teammates.
Smith will play his 50th Test this week at the SCG, a milestone that has allowed the gifted right-hander a brief moment to reflect on what he has already achieved.
“It’s gone pretty quickly,” Smith said on Monday, referencing a Test journey that started as a legspinning allrounder under Ricky Ponting in 2010.
Smith’s consistency over the past four years, an overall Test batting average of 60.63 and the ease and style in which he picks gaps and strokes boundaries has attracted all manner of praise and comparisons with the game’s greats.
But the 27-year-old is more worried about his future, regarded as blindingly bright by many good judges, than his past.
Smith has already posted 17 Test centuries for Australia, meaning he ranks equal 14th on the national list of most Test tons.
It is a position the skipper shares with vice-captain Warner, who has played 10 more Tests. Both leaders are desperate to rise further up a table topped by Ponting, who scored 41 Test hundreds in a decorated 168-Test career.
“There is that sort of healthy competitive nature there,” Smith said in Sydney on Monday.
“I know after he got his hundred in Melbourne, I said ‘oh I’m going to have to get one now’.
“It’s obviously not that easy, but fortunately I was able to equal him.
“I’m sure he’ll be keen to go out there and go one better (at the SCG). I’m going to have to do the same.”
Smith, who reached three figures in the first and second Tests against Pakistan, is averaging 179 in the ongoing series.
He made his Test debut against the same opposition at Lord’s, bowling 21 overs of legspin and scoring a total of 13 runs as a tailender.
“I was fortunate to play when I was quite young,” Smith said.
“I’ve always seen myself as more of a batsman and that’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, to put that (bowling) on the backburner and just concentrate on my batting.”
Smith has scored 4410 runs at 64.85 and become the nation’s third youngest Test captain since returning to Australia’s Test XI in 2013.
Prior to that Smith tallied 259 runs at 28.77, hardly resembling the unorthodox run glutton he would become.
“Probably walking about a foot across my stumps … that was a big turnaround for me and everything has felt pretty good since then,” Smith said, when asked what has changed since his second coming.
“That was actually something I started in the 2013 Ashes out in the middle of the WACA. They were bowling quite short at me out there and I started a prelim movement.
“It was like everything sort of just clicked into place. It’s gradually got a little bit bigger over time, but it’s just getting me into a position to pounce on anything.”