Steve Smith may get the chance to captain Jhye Richardson one day.
Steve Smith may get the chance to captain Jhye Richardson one day.

Smith clash that shook Aussie golden boy

As is the case with many Australian cricketers who were in South Africa last year, the scandal-laden tour proved an unforgettable and formative moment in Jhye Richardson's career.

But not for the reasons you might assume.

Richardson, now in the box seat to be part of Australia's World Cup and Ashes defence, regards his maiden tour as a great experience.

The 22-year-old has enhanced his reputation as the nation's most promising young paceman in recent months, impressing on Test debut in Brisbane then forming a potent new-ball pairing with Pat Cummins that delivered Australia an unprecedented ODI series win in India.

Richardson, an unassuming teetotaller with a wiry frame who has been told throughout life he's too short to be a fast bowler, vividly recalls the penny-drop moment that made him realise what's required to make it in international cricket.

Fittingly for someone tagged with the nickname "Shadow" because of how closely he followed Mitchell Starc around South Africa, it came when Starc was bowling to Steve Smith during a fiery net session.

"It was just incredible to watch, Mitch was bowling 150km/h bouncers and Steve backed away and hit him over cover for six," Richardson told AAP. "It got pretty intense. It was honestly a step above anything I'd seen before.

"You get competitive in the nets, a bit chirpy with batsmen, but this was different. This was, 'Wow, this is serious'. Two of the best players in the world firing back at each other; pretty intimidating on both ends but awesome."

Richardson has learnt plenty from his more experienced teammates.
Richardson has learnt plenty from his more experienced teammates.

It was one of many illustrative lessons Richardson processed during one of the most incredible introductions to life on tour you could imagine. "Everything that happened, happened, but that tour was still a great experience for me," the West Australian said.

Richardson, constantly seeking feedback and tips from teammates, suggested his nickname was harsh but fair.

"Every young kid coming through wants to learn off the best players in the world, so I tried to hang around them a little bit," he said.

Starc, Cummins and Josh Hazlewood remain sounding boards.

Richardson reached out to the rested superstars in January, wanting advice about India's batsmen as he prepared to play his first ODI in Australia The youngster proceeded to claim 4/26 at the SCG, collected his baggy green 12 days later and could soon open the bowling with Cummins at the World Cup if Starc and Hazlewood aren't passed fit in time.

"He's someone who is always asking questions. Not all young kids are willing to learn as quickly as he is," said captain Aaron Finch.

"A lot of people sit back and wait for things to be given to them."

Richardson was aged 18 when Finch, Smith, Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood were part of Australia's triumphant 2015 World Cup squad.

Richardson made his mark when given the chance to play Test cricket.
Richardson made his mark when given the chance to play Test cricket.

The right-armer debuted for Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers the following summer, with legendary paceman Mitchell Johnson presciently describing him as one to watch.

Justin Langer, coaching WA and the Scorchers at the time, was impressed but quickly identified an obvious area to improve on.

Richardson was prone to fits of rage when he didn't get it right with the ball, literally kicking the ground and metaphorically kicking himself.

"JL was massive in terms of body language and emotion on the cricket field," Richardson said. "I was probably a bit temperamental … got really frustrated and really angry.

"By doing that, you're obviously showing the batsman that you're under pressure and not in control.

"JL wasn't afraid to pull me up whenever he saw it. They were honest conversations … 'Don't show the batsman you're not bowling well, get in the fight, get in the contest'."

Richardson did exactly that to dismiss Virat Kohli four times in six games this year.

Now, a chance to step out of the shadows and create more unforgettable memories looms large in England.

News Corp Australia


SPICY WINGS CHALLENGE: Can you handle the heat?

premium_icon SPICY WINGS CHALLENGE: Can you handle the heat?

One of our journalists takes on the Carolina Reaper

Centre plans to 'mug' EcoFest

premium_icon Centre plans to 'mug' EcoFest

The Creative Recycling Centre will help 'slim the bins' at EcoFest

'Amazing potential': Arts network to boost regional projects

premium_icon 'Amazing potential': Arts network to boost regional projects

'Building cultural tourism is a theme across a number of regions'