England v South Africa: 3rd Investec Test - Day Two
Graeme Smith (right) said his teammates were like his family © Getty Images


Mar 12, 2014


Former South African captain Graeme Smith’s shock retirement is yet to sink in the cricketing circles; Biffs’ mental steel is looked into while elevating South Africa to No1 in the ICC Test rankings and leaving behind a team filled with a galaxy of stars that include some of the world’s premier batsmen and bowlers.


In a report published in The Telegraph, Smith’s greatest years as Test captain which was post-2008 while reaching levels he could have barely imagined when he was handed the responsibility in 2003, are highlighted.


The report talks about Smith taking off on his own after playing one of his finest knocks of 154 not out, spearheading a chase of 281 to take South Africa to their first series win in England in 43 years.


Smith was sitting all by himself in a Lebenese café in Birmingham after just having a protein shake at lunch, the ex-South African captain remarked, “For the first time all day I was alone. It was the first chance I’d had to think about what had happened.”It threw light on the job of a captain; doing the team meetings, pep talks and sound bites to the media that it barely left any alone time for the skipper.


So defining and poignant was that fourth-innings knock that he rated it as one of his finest after hanging up his boots, he said, “My most meaningful knocks are probably the 154 to win the series in England and the hundred in Perth to set up the chase of 414 [in beating Australia in 2008]. Those moments stand out,” he said.


Being elevated to captaincy at the tender age of 22, taking on such a responsibility was huge for the carefree young boy who was nine-Tests old at the time and Smith admits he had the pressure of shouldering the multiple tasks of maturing as a person, an opening batter and captaining the Proteas, “Growing up as the national captain wasn’t easy. You are under a huge amount of pressure when you don’t know yourself that well and there are still phases of life that you have to go through.”


Smith concluded on how he was going to miss being part of the team he built and took the very summit of the cricketing world, braving tricky issues with the selectors, the hegemony of the senior players and nurturing some all-time greats like Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Ab de Villiers, “For so long the Proteas have been my family,” he said. “I’ve grown close to players and I will cherish those relationships for the rest of my life.”