Having walked the walk throughout Australia’s four-Test series, rookie skipper Steve Smith talked the talk on Boxing Day.
Smith personified leadership as Australia reached 5-259 at stumps on day one of the third Test against India.
Continuing his career-best form to finish 72 not out, he reined in his natural aggression with the bat to steady the hosts as wickets tumbled around him at the MCG.
Chris Rogers was in awe, noting how Smith’s confidence had grown.
“Someone (Indian paceman Mohammed Shami) threw a ball back at him today and he had the confidence to say a few words back at him,” Rogers said.
“It’s scary to think how good he can be.
“He’s phenomenal to watch.
“He knows he belongs and he knows he’s among the best players in the world at the moment.”
Smith is on the cusp of a third century in the series and passed 1000 Test runs for the calender year during his knock.
The 25-year-old displayed true grit, refusing to give India the upper hand at any point in a topsy-turvy day.
The rise and rise of Smith over the past year has been underlined by fluent strokeplay, fancy footwork, fidgeting at the crease and a lot of runs.
But when half-centurions Rogers and Shane Watson fell in consecutive overs during the second session as Australia slipped from 1-115 to 3-115, Smith reined himself in.
Smith started the 50th over on two from 31 deliveries.
The right-hander, fresh from man-of-the-match honours in his first Test as captain, waited 12 overs before taking his first risk.
It paid off, Smith dancing down the wicket to offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin and lashing a boundary over the head of mid-off.
Shaun Marsh and debutant Joe Burns were dismissed in the final session after making starts, but Smith remained resolute alongside Brad Haddin.
The pair negotiated eight overs of the second new ball in an unbeaten partnership worth 43 runs.
Smith had remarked that India were “whingeing and complaining among themselves” in his pre-match press conference, and that may have been the catalyst for his run-in with Shami after tea.
“Our focus is to get all batsmen out. Doesn’t matter if it was Steve Smith or anyone else,” Shami said of the confrontation.
David Warner’s hopes of niggling the tourists ended in just the second over when he was dismissed for a duck.
But India’s sloppy fielding meant they failed to take control of the contest.
Australia’s first run came in the fourth over, courtesy of a bye when wicketkeeper MS Dhoni fumbled a bouncer.
Debutant KL Rahul and Shami, both recalled as India seek the victory they need to keep the four-Test series alive, also misfielded in the fourth over.
The errors cost so much more than the four runs added to the scoreboard, relieving the pressure on Rogers and Watson.
“It definitely helps … hopefully we won’t make those mistakes,” Rogers said.
Second slip Shikhar Dhawan fumbled a catch when Watson was on 37, with Rogers calling it “pretty crucial”.