DARREN Lehmann has made the bold declaration his "Bradman-like" skipper Steve Smith can surpass the records of Australia's great captains.
Smith blasted 499 runs and three centuries in India, but it was the growth in the 27-year-old's leadership that most impressed the coach.
Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Allan Border and Mark Taylor stand tall as four of cricket's bastions of captaincy and success.
Lehmann says Smith is nothing like any of them, but believes a devout dedication to developing his own unique style has him well on the path to eclipsing the game's biggest and most respected names.
With an astounding 20 centuries from 54 Tests and a 61-run average that's the best since Bradman, Smith is already raking in the likes of Ponting and Waugh as Australia's greatest modern-day batsman at a rate of knots.
Doubts have been raised in the past about Smith's presence and tactics as a captain, but according to Lehmann, it was the skipper's leadership that almost clinched rare gold in India for a team that only eight Tests ago was nowhere.
"He's been brilliant. He's been unbelievable. He's been Bradman-like with the bat, but all the stuff behind the scenes has been exceptional," said Lehmann.
"I'm really pleased for him with what he's brought to the team as a leader.
"He's led from the front the captain. Three hundreds in four Test matches is pretty special.
"He loves the game. He's passionate about the game and he loves his players.
"He's a different leader to Michael (Clarke), to Ricky, to Mark Taylor, to Steve Waugh and he's working out his own identity as a captain.
"But I've been so proud of him."
Waugh's winning percentage as captain of 71.92 per cent is in a league of its own, with Ponting second on the list with a win percentage of 62.33.
From Smith's 24 matches he has 12 wins for a percentage of 40.02, but no captain in Australian history has had to deal with the amount of personnel change in such a short period as the blond-haired assassin.
With the groundwork firmly set during this series in India, Smith now has a young team at his disposal that he can mould into a powerhouse.
Lehmann admits he's coached much more attacking cricket teams, but he says the style Smith has adopted is right for this emerging group of new age stars.
"We have decided we are going a different way about the way we play. Obviously we're less aggressive than we have been in the past. And I'm pleased for them the way they have gone about it," said Lehmann.
"For me, the young group will grow. They will get better. We've just got to keep learning. We weren't good enough in this series, there is no doubt about that. We missed big opportunities to win the series.
"But ... this is a group that can play a long time together. That's the pleasing thing I think."
Lehmann says he's also had to adapt as coach from the man who oversaw Australia's 5-0 decimation of England in the 2013-14 summer.
"I have actually changed a bit in my ways as a coach. I've really enjoyed watching the way they go about it," he said.
"I think the other style was right for that group at the time but this group wants to play a different way and that's okay as well.
"You have got to change as a coach, change as a captain, and as players. The way they have gone about it and the way they want to play, on and off the field, has been exceptional."
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