"How many bouncers must a batsman cope
Before you call him a batsman?"
That's Bob Dylan singing, probably protesting the changing nature of the game, in a parallel universe where cricket is still a gentleman's game. But in reality, batsmen coping nasty bouncers have not only become a new norm, but it has been accepted as a part and parcel of the game. (More Cricket News)
Probably, that's what legendary Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar wanted to invoke. The message is straight and to the point. It read: "Even today, 3 hurting bouncers and i can dismiss @stevesmith49 [Steve Smith] on the 4th ball. Lol".
Bouncers are like tackles in a game of football - a foul, if not executed correctly, could end careers of players. And Steve Smith, the prodigious Australian batsman, witnessed the reality of coping a few. Fortunately for him, he survived. But there were few unlucky ones. And memories are still fresh in the sport's collective consciousness.
That little 'lol' at the end of the tweet did little to deflect the message. Akhtar relayed the message that, he can still intimidate a rival batsman with bouncers. That's where fans jump in -- to defend the batsman, in this case, Smith, and also to question the ex-bowler's intention. There are more who, in fact, wondered about the bowler's self aggrandisation too.
The game's global governing body, the International Cricket Council, was among those who reacted to Akhtar's comment, and it's pretty brutal.
Here are others:
Sorry Sir but here you are wrong. You cannot dismiss Steve at all. He is mentally & skillfully the best batsman. He will duck your bouncers & drive fuller ones all day.— Sunderdeep Singh (@SSunderdeep) May 11, 2020
This kinda arrogance ended your achievementless, useless career
show your bravery onfield if you got the balls, not on twitter ðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ https://t.co/td2gctaJKP— ðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ¨âÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂï¸ÂÂÂÂDr.N.G.SANAKYAN ðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ (@ngs_john) May 11, 2020
U might get Smith out one time but definitely not on 4th as confidently saying.Goat Dale steyn was the last bowler who took out Smith on a duck in 2014.From 2014 to 2020 No duck for Smith in test cricket.Only Glen McGrath can sledge Steve Smith n get him out in the very next ball— Cricket Fan (@cricketffan) May 11, 2020
Smit will leave all those bouncers in his own ugly looking style. And will pull the fourth one beautifully.— Shekhar Mishra (@techshekhar) May 11, 2020
The joke's on you to even suggest that you would just get through him in 4 balls. For someone who avg 60 in tests he deserves more respect. He won't get out without a fight.— sumedh pathak (@sumedh_pathak) May 11, 2020
First u need to have patience in order to beat steve smith's patience..if u keep on come running in without any patience then u will be a patient having sore back and hip injury for not being able to beat steve smith's patience with your patience— Shravan (@Shravan10390955) May 11, 2020
U'll end up hurting ur back & knees trying to dismiss him. He's not ur lilliput(sachin) that u can intimidate with bouncers.— à¤ÂÂÂÂ à¤à¤¿à¤®à¤¨à¥ÂÂÂÂà¤¯à¥ÂÂÂÂ à¤¸à¤¿à¤ÂÂÂÂà¤¹ (@__Abhimanyu_S) May 11, 2020
Now, to the context: Akhtar was responding to a poll on Twitter where ESPNCricinfo paired 20 top players -- former and current -- with each other and asked fans to pick one contest they would love to watch.
Smith vs Akhtar was an option.
The others were Sachin Tendulkar and Rashid Khan, Ricky Ponting and Jofra Archer, Virat Kohli and Shane Warne, Brian Lara and Neil Wagner, AB de Villiers and Wasim Akram, Kane Williamson and Muttiah Muralitharan, Kevin Pietersen and Kagiso Rabada, Saeed Anwar and Jasprit Bumrah, Babar Azam and Glenn McGrath.
For the uninitiated, Smith is currently the top-ranked ICC Test batsman and is often hailed as 'already' one of the greatest batsmen of all time. And he's coped many bouncers, including a frighting one from England pacer Jofra Archer.