Justin Langer rates Steve Smith at par with Virat Kohli

The Australia head coach says Smith’s performance at the Ashes Test in Edgbaston was “just another level.”

Steve Smith is the biggest “problem-solver” in the team, according to Langer.   -  AP

Australia coach Justin Langer feels Steve Smith is at par with Indian captain Virat Kohli as the world’s best batsman after he struck consecutive centuries in the opening Ashes Test against England.

Langer credited Smith for transforming his career after having arrived on to the scene as an unimpressive leg-spinner.

“Let’s face it; when [Smith] first came in, leg-spinner, unorthodox... [everyone thought] ‘I’m not sure this kid’s going to make it.’ Then he goes away [and decides] ‘I don’t want to be a leg-spinner; I want to be the best batsman in the world.’ Then he transforms himself and he is the best batsman in the world with Virat. It’s a great credit to him,” Langer said.

“I said during the summer that Virat Kohli is the best player I have ever seen but [Smith’s performance] is just another level,” the coach said.

Kohli currently leads the ICC Test rankings, while Smith has moved up to third.

Returning to international cricket after having served a one-year ban for ball-tampering, Smith struck twin centuries — 144 in the first innings and 142 in the second — to help his side register a thumping 251-run win against England on Monday.

Traits of great players

Langer said Smith’s knocks at Edgbaston showed his mental toughness and traits of a great player. “You have in different teams, different eras, great players but for someone like Smudge (Smith), who is averaging over 60 and the way he played in this innings with all the pressure and everything that is on him, it was not only great skill but enormous character, enormous courage, very brave, unbelievable concentration, unbelievable physical stamina, unbelievable mental stamina, all traits of great players,” he said.

Read | DR-SOS! A recap of the Ashes umpiring horror show in Edgbaston

The former opener termed Smith a problem-solver of his team, someone who just loves batting for long hours. “You throw to him in the nets and you literally feel like you can’t get him out and there’s no batsman like that and you just end up throwing a million balls and you are just lost for answers,” Langer said.

‘Best problem-solver’

“I guess you would have to ask England how they feel about that and they had some interesting tactics for him. They had the really short point which I had never seen before, they obviously had a tactic they prepared and Trevor Bayliss has seen a lot of Steve Smith since he was a kid. They would have studied him closely but he just has a knack, well, he is the best problem-solver in the game,” he added.

Langer also praised off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who claimed 6 for 49 in the second innings to seal the win for Australia. “Like a few of our players, like Steve Smith, I didn’t realise how good Nathan Lyon was until I took over coaching the cricket team,” he said.

“You see him on [television], yeah, Nathan Lyon, off-spin bowler, but [in] the last 12 months or so I just can’t believe how good a bowler he is. He’s a brilliant bowler, such good control: he spins, he gets some bounce, great fielder, really good in the team, he’s the song master, so that tells you something about his character.”

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