Rajasthan Royals players Steve Smith and Ben Stokes
Steve Smith (left) and Ben Stokes at the unveiling of team jerseys for Rajasthan Royals ahead of IPL 2019. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: They may have been the most bitter of rivals in the 2019 Ashes series, but Steve Smith and Ben Stokes have been members of Rajasthan Royals, the IPL franchise, for a number of years now. What’s more, the dashing England allrounder is actually in awe of Smith’s obsession when it comes to batting.

“Even though he plays for Australia ... you’ve just got to hold your hands up sometimes to players like that and go ‘yeah you’re on a different level when it comes to batting’,” Stokes said in a video chat for his IPL franchise.

Having shared the Royals dressing room in the IPL with Smith, Stokes has observed how Smith approaches his craft and is impressed as well as amused.

“He’s still strange to play against and he’s still strange to play with, and the best thing about it is that he admits it,” Stokes said. “But I feel to be a genius you have to be a bit strange and you know he’s certainly both.”

Australia's Steve Smith played a stellar role behind them winning the Ashes series in England last year. Image Credit: AP

A prolific Smith, who averages 62.8 in Test cricket, helped Australia retain the Ashes last year, confirming his stature as one of the premier batsmen of his era.

Smith, whose story of redemption after his involvement in the ‘Sandpapergate’ is one of the key components of the recent web series ‘The Test’ on Netflix, has admitted to shadow-practising even in the shower and Australia’s batting mainstay often needs to be told by the team management to go easy in net sessions to prevent burnout.

“I could never be like that, personally, I could not think about cricket in the way that he does when it comes to batting,” said the 28-year-old.

“You know obviously he’s on all the time, but that’s why he averages 60 whatever he does in test cricket...”

Stokes also threw in his lot behind Test cricket, saying that the longest format of the game will always remain the purest form of cricket.

The 2019 World Cup-winning hero also felt it does not need much tinkering and the great players would also not want to see many changes in the longest format.

“For me, Test cricket is the pinnacle. I do not know where the talks of Test cricket dying are coming from. You can ask the likes of Virat Kohli, Joe Root and they will say that Test cricket is where a player gets really tested,” he said.

“In the longest format, you find out who you really are as a cricketer and for me, it will always be the purest form of cricket. It needs to stay around, it would be really sad if Test cricket is changed. If they are going to change the rules, I think it should be called easy cricket then,” Stokes added.

Last year, ICC’s cricket committee was deliberating upon the idea of four-day Test matches.