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Smith's concussion call may come at great cost, with far greater long-term benefits

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A lot of spectators had long faces when they heard Steve Smith was not playing at Headingley this week. The saddest had come halfway around the world. Perhaps they hadn’t come all that way to see him, but it had come to feel like they had. An individual can become the show – Bradman toured England at the age of 40 as a favour to the finances of the post-war economy – and Smith had quickly turned into the star attraction.

Illustration: Simon LetchCredit:

Any resumption of the contest between Smith and Jofra Archer would have to wait. Smith-mania might have been partially eclipsed by Archer fever, but on both sides this is the individual encounter that grips the imagination. Alas, Smith was out, and there was a slump in those green-and-gold-clad shoulders in Leeds. Half of a main event felt, to many, like a non-event.

Amid the disappointment, there was also concern and a dawning respect. Was Smith all right? Would he be OK for Old Trafford? More importantly, would he be OK? Cricket’s concussion protocols are new, and an Australian initiative, stemming from awareness of Phillip Hughes’s death four years ago and the cross-sport influence of the football codes. Australia is a world leader in getting cricket to recognise the long-term danger of head injuries. What would Australia’s leadership be worth if their superstar player failed, so to speak, this test?

And here is another thing: Smith’s extraordinary batting had, since the Birmingham Test match, been given the false economy of redemption, as if run-scoring somehow paid back a debt incurred through........

© The Age