Greatest ever: Ponting backs Smith to do unthinkable
STEVE Smith is on track to become the greatest batsman of all time, according to former Australia cricket captain Ricky Ponting.
It's a big call but Ponting said it is a live possibility if Smith continues at his current rate of scoring.
Smith tipped the first Ashes Test in Australia's favour after day three with an impeccable 141 not out at the Gabba - a disciplined, courageous knock that lasted more than eight and a half hours.
It was his 21st Test ton in just 57 matches, and with Smith just 28 years old, Ponting believes he could soon overtake cricket's all-time greats.
"He's well and truly on track to do that," Ponting said on ABC Radio. "If he keeps trending the way he is, then absolutely.
"Think about the greats and the (Sachin) Tendulkars and the (Jacques) Kallises and these guys that have scored 15,000 runs - they played 150-plus Tests to achieve what they achieved.
"He's nearly halfway there in just over 50 Test matches. (But) it doesn't get easier.
"The longer you play, once you get around that 100 Test mark, it doesn't get easier from there to keep improving, which is one of the holes I saw in this England team coming into this series.
"It's going to be a great challenge for him but I'm happy to sit back and watch it as it all unfolds."
Ponting, who was Australia's skipper when Smith made his Test debut seven years ago, said he would have been thinking about his first innings of the series since the last Ashes campaign in 2015.
"We saw the emotion that came out in him afterwards, banging his chest and his heart and the crest and whatever else," Ponting said.
"It was a leader's innings and he's put his mark on this series at his first possible opportunity.
"He was just completely unflappable. He didn't get out of his bubble at all through the course of that whole innings, which says a lot about him. "I watched him pretty closely.
"You just know that he's hungry to lead his team well, he wants to be the best player that there's ever been and he's got a game now that's standing up against the best attacks and conditions all around the world."