Vitality T20 Blast – Will Smeed pledges to be ‘greedy’ as Somerset look to go one better

The Vitality Blast turns 20 this year and when the competition begins with a blockbuster rematch of last year’s final between Kent and Somerset on Wednesday night, one of the main drawcards will be Will Smeed, himself only 20 years old.

For most cricket fans those opening hit-and-giggle games that heralded the freshness of the first-ever summer of Twenty20 cricket in 2003 hardly feel that long ago but for the new generation of cricketers, they have known nothing else.

Last summer Smeed emerged, front and centre of the new wave who have revolutionised the game over the past two decades. Smeed has grown up alongside the shortest format, sponging off an era of white-ball hitters down in Taunton: it is no wonder he plays as he does.

West Indies great Chris Gayle peppering the River Tone at Taunton is one of the most enduring memories of the competition’s past, although there have been a few players of a similar style to grace the West Country in the T20 era.

“He’s the one that stands out,” Smeed says, recalling Gayle’s unbeaten 151 – coincidentally also against Kent – back in 2015 when a fan jumped into the river to retrieve one of the balls he had hit out of the ground. “What he did was ridiculous.”

Smeed’s skillset epitomises the biggest change to T20 cricket in the last 20 years: the mindset of the batters. Across his fledgling T20 career, he has hit a boundary every five balls and he strikes at 155 over the past year. Smeed doesn’t care where you bowl it: you’re fetching it from the stands.

Should we be surprised by these stats? Well, not really. Smeed played all his youth cricket in the age of T20. And, the result is simple. He is a product of the era – bullish, confident, and always backing himself.

He stands at the crease, never afraid to take a risk, never afraid to lose his wicket, and never to change the approach that has brought him so much success.

“When I was younger, I was better at red-ball cricket, but that has flipped itself around,” Smeed explains. “I’m not really sure how or why that has happened.

“When batting, I don’t try to think about what has gone before. It’s about going back to basics, watching the ball, keeping it simple, and hopefully, I get a boundary away early. That usually calms my nerves.”

Although Smeed has aspirations to play all three formats throughout his career, he certainly suits the shortest. And as T20 cricket has found its feet over the past two decades, so has Smeed.

The last two seasons have hardly been a bad start to his career, considering he had a shoulder operation a few years ago. Smeed hit 82 off 49 balls in just his second professional match.

He top-scored for Somerset in last year’s Blast final and chalked-up two 90-plus scores in the Pakistan Super League, falling agonisingly short of a maiden T20 century which is surely just around the corner.

“With T20 cricket, even the world’s best players don’t come off every time,” he says, on retaining his positive ethos at the crease. “There has to be that acceptance that it’s not going your way every game, but that makes it better when it does come off. That belief feeds down from the coaches, knowing they will back you if you don’t score for a few games.

“It gives you the confidence to go and express yourself. I play my best when I’m really enjoying it, I don’t try to overthink it.”

This season, Smeed is focused on taking his side to the Blast title, hoping to go one step further after last year’s final defeat to Kent. “There is the belief around the squad that we can win the competition,” he adds.

“I feel a lot more established in the side, so I will be looking to take more responsibility. Bowlers would have seen more of me, so I need to find ways to counteract that.

“It’s about taking smarter options at the crease. Last season, I got a lot of starts but didn’t kick on. This year, I’m going to be greedy.”

You can book your Vitality Blast tickets and join the 20th season celebrations via this link

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