Graeme Smith (left) with wife and their two children © Getty Images
Johannesburg: Mar 6, 2014
Former captains and fellow players were unanimous in their accolades for international cricket’s longest-serving skipper, Graeme Smith who announced his retirement earlier this week.
Shaun Pollock, who preceded Smith, lauded the 33-year-old for his tenacity in captaining South Africa for over a decade.
Smith took over the reins aged just 22 when Cricket South Africa (CSA) fired Pollock after he refused to resign in the wake of the Proteas’ first round defeat at the ICC World Cup 2003.
“Captaining South Africa for a long time is mentally tough,” Pollock told Business Day about the times when Smith was the brunt of public anger, including when he opted to go to Ireland rather than coming back with the team following their failure at the ICC World Cup 2011.
“It’s our team when we’re winning and Graeme’s team when we’re losing,” Pollock said.
Smith had announced he would retire from international cricket after the third Test against Australia at Newlands, which the visitors eventually won by 245 runs on Wednesday.
Pollock said Smith was successful despite an unconventional style of batting.
“I’ve got two daughters’ but if I had a boy, I would not want him to bat like Graeme Smith,” Pollock said.
“Technically, he wasn’t the best, but from a tenacity and character point of view his record sums him up. You don’t always have to look pretty to be effective, and he was very effective.”
Former opening batsman Jimmy Cook recalled how he had worked with then teenager Smith and gave up trying to change his technique.
“As a youngster his technique was to hit everything through the leg side and over the years I tried and tried to get him to hit straighter,” Cook told the daily The Times.
“We got to a point where I felt we were never going to eradicate it altogether. So I decided to stop trying to change him too much and work with the wonderful attributes he had such as a great eye, courage and a fantastic attitude towards the game.”
All-rounder Jacques Kallis, who retired just weeks before Smith, said his former captain was one of those sportsmen who did not get the recognition due to him.
“Graeme has been the leader of the players in South Africa for longer than most of us can remember,” said South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) president Robin Peterson.
“He has played a huge role within our players association, and he’s always stood up for the collective of the South African professional cricketers, which has made things better for all players,” Peterson said.