Despite their steadfast on-field rivalry, England all-rounder Ben Stokes has acknowledged Australia's Steve Smith as a "genius" and a batsman "on a different level".
England felt the brunt of Smith's class during the Ashes last year, when the Australian, upon Test comeback after a year-long ban, helped his side retain the urn for the first time in England in 18 years.
But Stokes knows Smith better than many others in the England side, having played alongside him in the Indian Premier League with Rajasthan Royals. It's all culminated in a healthy respect towards his Australian opponent.
"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. He knows it, he knows it!" Stokes said about Smith in a chat for the IPL franchise. "But I feel to be a genius you have to be a bit strange and you know he’s certainly both.
“Even though he plays for Australia – biggest rivals England and 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 added, though, that the singlemindedness towards batting was not something that works for him.
"I could never be like that, personally, I could not think about cricket in the way that he does when it comes to batting," he added. "You know obviously he’s on all the time but that’s why he averages sixty whatever he does in Test cricket but that’s not for me but it’s for him, who’s to say whose right or wrong."
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