Graeme Smith questions mental aptitude of today’s Test batsmen
Graeme Smith scored 1,570 runs in 12 Tests in England, at an average of 67.75. @Getty

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith has questioned whether today’s Test batsmen have the ability to cope with the moving ball in England, suggesting that falling standards of batting are equated to individual impatience in getting down and dirty to survive.

Speaking to Cricbuzz, Smith cited the example of the ongoing India vs England Test series, in which only Virat Kohli has scored 440 runs in six innings, while the next best returns have come from Jonny Bairstow who has 206 in five. No other batsman has touched 170 runs apart from Jos Buttler – 106 of which came in one innings.

This, according to Smith, was further evidence of not enough Test batsman having the application to bat out sessions against the Dukes ball. “I just think modern-day batters don’t have the patience any more. They’re not prepared to work through periods,” said the 37-year-old.  “Look at Virat Kohli’s hundred in the Edgbaston game. How long was he under the pump for? He fought and he fought and he fought, and then suddenly it breaks; you get the opportunity to play and the game opens up.”

Smith, South Africa’s second-highest run-getter in Tests with 9,253, was critical of the way captains went onto the defensive easily in Test cricket.

“I just think that little bit has gone out of the modern-day game, certainly in the Test match format. That’s why captains drop the field back so quickly – because they know that the modern-day batters want to see boundaries. If they can cut out the boundaries then people get frustrated and play loose shots,” he said.

“I think you can play on egos a lot more nowadays than you probably could a few years back. You have to have a brain. Sometimes you realise that, ‘OK, the wicket is doing a lot, the ball is swinging, I’ve got to fight and fight hard to get through it’. So it’s about figuring out and understanding what you’re up against and putting your technique and mindset into the situation.”

Graeme Smith England
Smith is one of just eight visiting Test openers to score over 1,000 runs in England. @Getty

In the history of Test cricket, there have been just eight openers who have managed to score 1,000 runs on tours of England. Smith is one of them, having accumulated 1,570 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 67.75. Of his overall runs, Smith scored 5,523 as opener away from home.

For him, the key was an awareness of the conditions in England and being content to leave plenty of deliveries.

There’s a big difference batting in England when it’s overcast and cloudy to when it’s sunny.So just being aware of those situations – when you need to tighten up and when you can afford to attack a bit more and stuff like that. Mentally being a lot more aware, because the wicket may seem to be flat but all of a sudden it clouds over and it starts swinging,” said Smith.

“When you’re batting in England, the minute you follow the ball you tend to nick it more. If you can play a line and you hold your line, if there’s swing or movement and it beats you, then that’s fine. I found that in England because the wickets are a touch slow, if you follow the ball or at the last minute feel for something, you tend to edge it. So I was quite comfortable playing and missing in England and holding my channels with my bat.”