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Graeme Smith: The Don Bradman of run chases

Graeme Smith led from the front on many occasions for South Africa © Getty Images (File Photo)
Graeme Smith led from the front on many occasions for South Africa © Getty Images (File Photo)

The sudden retirement of Graeme Smith has cast a shadow of gloom on world cricket. He was the kid who had grown with the new millennium and had emerged as the General of an all-conquering side. Abhishek Mukherjee provides a statistical insight into Smith’s career.

It’s all over, then. Graeme Craig Smith has left the arena for the one final time. He has been that rare combination of the wily schemer and the commander who lead from the front and had managed to stay away from limelight at the same time. One of the finest captains in the history of the sport, Smith’s batsmanship has not been one of the most discussed topics. And yet, in the colossal shadows of and soon-to-be-greats like AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, Smith had created his own niche as a batsman.

The numbers concerning Smith’s excellent record as a captain have been covered in details in Arunabha Sengupta’s excellent article. The objective of this article is to showcase Smith’s contribution to his side as a batsman.

To start with, Smith ranks twelfth among all batsmen in history, which is no mean feat. What must be noted here is the fact that Smith remains the first player to quit Tests in the 9,000s, which says a thing or two of his selfless attitude.

Most runs

Player

M

Runs

Ave

100s

50s

Sachin Tendulkar

200

15,921

53.78

51

68

Ricky Ponting

168

13,378

51.85

41

62

Jacques Kallis

166

13,289

55.37

45

58

Rahul Dravid

164

13,288

52.31

36

63

Brian Lara

131

11,953

52.88

34

48

Mahela Jayawardene

143

11,319

50.30

33

46

Shivnarine Chanderpaul

153

11,219

51.93

29

62

Allan Border

156

11,174

50.56

27

63

Kumar Sangakkara

122

11,151

58.07

35

45

Steve Waugh

168

10,927

51.06

32

50

Sunil Gavaskar

125

10,122

51.12

34

45

Graeme Smith

117

9,265

48.25

27

38

It must be remembered, though, that Smith has decided to call it quits at an age of 33. If we check careers for players with ages up to 33 at the start of the Tests, Smith moves up to the fifth position ahead of some of the legends of the sport.

Most runs (age up to 33)

Player

M

Runs

Ave

100s

50s

Sachin Tendulkar

135

10,668

54.70

35

43

Ricky Ponting

126

10,497

56.74

36

42

Jacques Kallis

131

10,277

54.66

31

51

Mahela Jayawardene

117

9,546

53.32

28

38

Graeme Smith

117

9,265

48.25

27

38

Rahul Dravid

107

9,174

57.33

23

46

Kumar Sangakkara

102

8,972

56.42

26

37

Virender Sehwag

98

8,306

50.64

22

32

Michael Clarke

105

8,240

51.50

27

27

Kevin Pietersen

104

8,181

47.28

23

35

In terms of hundreds by 33, too, his 27 hundreds are next to the tallies of only Ricky Ponting (36), Sachin Tendulkar (35), Jacques Kallis (31), and Mahela Jayawardene (28), and at par with Sunil Gavaskar and Michael Clarke (27 each).

 

Of course, as captain, nobody matches Smith’s aggregates — but a lot of that has to do with the fact that he has played more Tests as a captain than anyone else. At 8,659 runs with 25 hundreds and 36 fifties (which amount to 61 scores above 50) he towers above his nearest rivals — Border (6,623), Ponting (19), and Ponting (54).

Catch all the stories related to Graeme Smith’s retirement here

Smith’s magical year was 2008 — when he went past some of the legends of the sport and posted the third-highest aggregate for a single calendar year. 1,656 runs at 72.00 do not come easily.

Most runs in a calendar year

Player

Year

M

Runs

Ave

100s

50s

Mohammad Yousuf

2006

11

1,788

99.33

9

3

Viv Richards

1976

11

1,710

90.00

7

5

Graeme Smith

2008

15

1,656

72.00

6

6

Michael Clarke

2012

11

1,595

106.33

5

3

Sachin Tendulkar

2010

14

1,562

78.10

7

5

Sunil Gavaskar

1979

18

1,555

59.80

5

8

Ricky Ponting

2005

15

1,544

67.13

6

6

Ricky Ponting

2003

11

1,503

100.20

6

4

Michael Vaughan

2002

14

1,481

61.70

6

2

Justin Langer

2004

14

1,481

54.85

5

4

What made Smith really stand out, however, is his performance in the final innings of matches. The numbers show how instrumental Smith had been under pressure. In fourth innings his aggregate (1,611 runs at 51.96) has been marginally second to only Tendulkar (1,625 runs at 36.93). It must be kept in mind that Smith had batted in 41 innings compared to Tendulkar’s 60.

If one puts a 1,000-run restriction on the fourth-innings performances, Smith ends up quite high on the list:

Best averages in fourth innings (over 1,000 runs)

Player

M

Runs

Ave

100s

50s

Geoff Boycott

36

1,234

58.76

3

7

Sunil Gavaskar

34

1,398

58.25

4

8

Younis Khan

35

1,110

55.50

4

5

Gordon Greenidge

41

1,383

53.19

3

6

Graeme Smith

42

1,611

51.96

4

9

Ricky Ponting

56

1,462

50.41

4

6

Matthew Hayden

39

1,287

49.50

1

9

Mahela Jayawardene

44

1,042

45.30

3

5

Graham Gooch

30

1,121

44.84

3

5

Shivnarine Chanderpaul

57

1,518

44.64

2

11

In successful chases, however, Smith’s numbers are next to none: Smith is the only man to have scored over a thousand Test runs in successful chases (1,141 runs from 22 innings at a Bradmanesque 87.76 with a record four hundreds). Along with Ponting (another champion in another champion side) he can safely be called the best batsman in history in successful chases. The table below is perhaps the greatest proof of why some sides turn out to be champions and some do not.

Best averages in successful chases (over 500 runs)

Player

M

Runs

Ave

100s

50s

Graeme Smith

22

1,141

87.76

4

6

Ricky Ponting

35

911

82.81

3

4

Desmond Haynes

30

809

67.41

1

4

Gary Kirsten

20

605

67.22

0

5

Gordon Greenidge

26

850

65.38

1

4

Sachin Tendulkar

28

715

59.58

1

4

Matthew Hayden

27

913

57.06

1

6

Rahul Dravid

24

511

56.77

0

3

Hashim Amla

16

518

51.80

1

3

Justin Langer

27

849

49.94

2

5

So, what was it they say about leading from the front?

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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