Steve Smith’s exaggerated style is a calming influence. Picture: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP
Steve Smith’s exaggerated style is a calming influence. Picture: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

Revealed: Quirky root of Smith’s batting genius

He might look like Mr Fidgety, but in his own quirky way Steve Smith is Mr Serenity.

Smith's eccentric homemade concoction of zany twitches, pad snatches and exaggerated leaves has been the focus of the cricket world over the past week as observers try to explain the root of his genius.

But leading performance psychology expert Phil Jauncey claims there is a method behind the madness and calmness amongst the calamity of Smith's frenzied movements at the crease.

Jauncey who is currently advising the South Sydney Rabbitohs and has previously worked with international cricketers, believes that what looks like an exhausting and haphazard approach between deliveries is actually deceptively structured.

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"If you're a routine person, it will generate energy rather than tire you," Jauncey told The Daily Telegraph.

"When you're playing sport at a high level, you want to keep your mental computer on. What happens is the brain says, 'as long as you stick to what you're doing when you feel good … when push comes to shove, it will keep the computer on.

"Everybody at this level has really good skills. If I put a plank across the floor of my office, and say walk from one end to the other - it's dead easy. But if I put that plank 10 stories up and suddenly it's hard because you think you're going to die.

"Where people make mistakes is the bigger situation, they change. And if they change, that turns the computer off.

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"The higher the level, the more you want the computer on, because (in high pressure situations) the computer can do it for you.

"Sometimes, these quirky little things keep the computer on."

Smith said in his book, The Journey, that the "nervous fidgets" actually relaxed him.

"It's impossible to concentrate for every single second you are out in the middle," he said.

"I'll touch the top of my left pad, then the top of my right pad, my thigh pad and then finally, my box. Just a series of minute adjustments that get me back in the moment and focus all (my) energies on the next one.

"It's the art of switching on and switching off."

Jauncey says he once worked with an international batsman who wanted to know why he kept getting out in the nervous 90s.

His response was, 'what do you do in the non-nervous 80s?'

The player admitted his normal routine of walking around between balls would stop when he would freeze up in the 90s. Smith might be unusual, but he's consistently unusual.

"They used to say Michael Jordan played really well in the (NBA) finals. But in fact, Michael Jordan did what he did every game, the only difference was in the finals he had more fuel," said Jauncey.

 

 

"By Smith doing what he normally does with the computer on, the only difference at Edgbaston (on the bigger stage) was he had more fuel."

Perhaps the most eye-catching of all Smith's idiosyncrasies is the way he leaves the ball like Luke Skywalker might wield a lightsabre. For most batsmen the action is completely nondescript, but for Smith at Edgbaston it resembled a kick down the wicket at England's Stuart Broad.

According to one of his first mentors, former Test opener Phil Jaques, Smith's over-the-top ways of letting the ball go through to the keeper is his way of going to battle in a non-contact sport.

"A lot of the things he does is about staying in the contest and staying present for the next ball, I believe," said Jaques, who as NSW coach has found scientific evidence to support the fact that players who chop and change their routine are more inconsistent.

"You saw in the first innings at Edgbaston just how much he can get into the fight when the conditions aren't in his favour and the team really needs him to score.

"Those idiosyncrasies probably become a bit more apparent when he is in a fight like that and it's good to see someone roll their sleeves up and get stuck in."