Steve Smith turns back the clock
STEVE Smith is trying to make the most of the spare time he has ahead of him, but will he use any of it to reinvest in his bowling?
The fallen Australian captain rolled the arm over in the Toronto Nationals' loss to Edmonton this morning as the Canada Global League roadshow rolled on.
It was just one over, and the four dot balls he bowled were undone somewhat by being hammered for a six, but in his brief cameo, Smith found plenty of turn and some good areas in Toronto.
The mere sight of Smith with white ball in hand was a pleasant surprise.
Smith hasn't bowled in a Twenty20 international since 2014, a one-day international in over two years and only sparingly in Test matches since he was recalled to the Test side in 2013.
This reluctance all the more curious coming from a blond-haired kid who made his Australian debut as a leg-spinner.
One theory is that Smith is such a perfectionist that he doesn't want to risk failure by trying his hand at a discipline he doesn't train enough at.
Another is that Smith as a batsman is such a masterful player of spin bowling himself, that he might simply not rate his own bowling: perhaps a gross miscalculation given he's in a batting class almost entirely on his own.
Smith has far more important issues to process and work through over the next nine months, but before the ball-tampering scandal broke, there were already plenty of people in the know in Australian cricket who felt the team needed Smith to start backing himself with the ball once again.
The Australian side has looked one-dimensional for some time, and many believe Smith could provide greater flexibility to the line-up by investing in becoming a successful part-time leggie again.
As Australian captain Smith understandably felt that was virtually impossible given his no holds barred dedication to batting (which had turned him into the second coming of Bradman), coupled with his responsibilities to the team overall.
But plenty has changed since Cape Town.
Smith won't captain at any level of the game for at least two years.
He has also spoken about how becoming trapped in the bubble of his own batting contributed in some way to the mental fog that undid him in South Africa.
Will this prompt a change in outlook?
It was certainly unusual to see Smith practising his bowling in the nets with Toronto a day out from the tournament starting, when that has almost exclusively not happened over the past few years for Australia. Although, it's also true that it's hard to read much into a quirky tournament like this.
Organisers of the fledgling Twenty20 league received a scare this morning when Smith's match was delayed by an hour due to a damp pitch.
No rain had fallen, but the damage was the result of sweating under the covers and a stark reminder of how hard it will be for curators to manage three full weeks of cricket on one square that is using only two or three pitches.
Smith hadn't fancied bowling a day earlier. But the pitches look as though they might turn square.
"The pitch isn't suited to my bowling at all, nor is the ground (because of its size)," said Smith who, batting first, was caught for 10 runs off 10 balls after a promising start.
"Let's hope that I'm not required (to bowl), but obviously playing on this (wicket) … things might change.
"There's probably going to be a lot of traffic on these wickets. So come the back end of the tournament maybe I'll ask to have a bowl, but not at this stage, I can assure you of that."