His stupendous efforts in the recently-concluded Ashes series have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that Steve Smith is the best batsman in the world currently. But where does he stand in the all-time list of great batsman like Sachin Tendulkar?
The fact is that Steve Smith has the second-highest average for a batsman who has played a substantial number of matches, in the history of the game. The only person who averaged more than him was the one and only Sir Don Bradman.
In 68 Tests, Smith has managed to score 26 Test hundreds – a magnificent record. He is averaging a hundred every 2.61 matches. So, the question arises, will he be able to break the world record for most centuries in Tests – held, not surprisingly, by Sachin Tendulkar with 51 hundreds?
Now, Tendulkar played 200 Tests and scored this many centuries. If Smith continues to score runs at the rate he has, he will need around 135 career matches to set a new record, that is, around 67-68 more. Of course, sustaining this streak of heavy scoring won't be easy. As good as he is, Smith is bound to go through patches of bad form at some stage.
But what if the opposite happens? His captain Tim Paine said that Smith is only getting better. What if the right-hander actually increases his output of runs rather than reducing it? In that situation, he may need even less than 135 matches to get to 52 Test hundreds.
But there is another variable that needs to be put into the equation – time. Would the Australian be able to play as many Test matches as are required to break Sachin's record? Let's look at his team's schedule in the coming years.
Smith is 30 years old currently. The ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) sets the schedule for all the teams in a particular time period. According to the FTP for 2018-2023 period, the Baggy Greens are scheduled to play 34 more Tests prior to the 2023 World Cup. So, Smith, if he remains fit and plays every Test, would have 102 Tests under his belt by the time he is 34.
So, if the former Aussie captain retains his form, he would need four more years after 2023 to get to Sachin's mark. Considering his fitness and that of modern-day batsmen, he should be able to play up till that time.
Even if his form suffers a bit of decline, he may well have, at least, a couple of years more to get to 52 tons in the longest format. Playing till the age of 40 is something many batsmen have managed to do. But if his current form is a purple patch and not something he could carry on with for long, then, Smith may fall short of Sachin's mark.
But that would be a function of playing fewer Tests and not due to less prolificacy. Let's wait and watch.