Steven Smith has insisted he “never had ambitions to play for England” despite a contract offer from Surrey that “sounded like quite a fair amount of money” to his teenage ears.
But while Smith was not tempted to pursue his career with England, he remains a fan of county cricket – which he refers to as “fantastic” – and is keen to “play some county cricket at some point.”
In the English summer of 2007, Smith opted to play club cricket in Kent for Sevenoaks Vine and, before long, started to attract the interest of several counties. Noting that his British mother gave him the option of playing county cricket as a non-overseas player, Kent were the first to offer him second XI cricket. But after one match (against Sussex) he informed their academy coach, Paul Farbrace (now assistant coach with England) he had no intention of forging his career in the UK and the decision was made to invest time and money in other players.
As a result, Smith played for Surrey second XI instead. And, after a few weeks – he played alongside the likes of Chris Jordon, Jason Roy, Jade Dernbach, Alistair Brown and Rory Hamilton-Brown who he also stayed with for a while – he was offered what is understood to have been a three-year deal worth around 30,000 a year.
But by then he was on the fringes of the New South Wales team and focused on playing for Australia. He returned to county cricket for a brief T20 stint with Worcestershire in 2010 but by then he was already an international player for Australia.
“Yes, I got offered a contract at Surrey,” Smith said ahead of the Sydney Test. “At 18 years of age, it sounded like quite a fair amount of money to me. But I always knew I wanted to come back and play for New South Wales and for Australia and do my best there.
“It was a decision I had to make at the time, and I think I chose the right one. I never had ambitions to play for England as such, I always wanted to play for Australia.
“But I love how county cricket looked and how it was played. I thought it would be really good to play it. My good mate Sam Robson has taken the route to play county cricket and has done very well. He has played for England, obviously. But I never wanted to go down that path.”
While Smith’s schedule is busy these days, he retains ambitions to play four-day county cricket at some stage. And with up to half-a-dozen Australian players expected to feature in county cricket in 2018 – a year before several of them will return in a bid to retain the Ashes in 2019 – that could come sooner rather than later.
“I’d love to play some county cricket at some point in my career,” Smith said. “I never had any opportunity to play four-day cricket there. I had a Twenty20 stint with Worcestershire, which I really enjoyed.
“But I think just any chance guys get to play first-class cricket against quality oppositions in foreign conditions, it’s only good for the individual to try to improve their game. And I’m sure the counties enjoy having a quality player coming and playing for them as well.”