Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 6th 2014 Contents A51
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Graeme Smith was South Africa s
youngest captain, a brash boy who
wasn t afraid of older men, and he
grew up under the harsh glare of
international captaincy. He suc-
Graeme Smith trampled the grass
between the slip cordon and the
pitch, until he was level with David
Warner. Then he let go with some
straight talking about Joe Root and
other home truths for Warner. Smith
stood barely a metre from the bats-
man, towering above, but looking
in another direction. Then, when he
was sure Warner, and anyone with
access to the stump mic, had got
the message, he strolled, letting play
continue once he was back in his
spot at slip. That was Biff.
A short time later Morne Morkel
was trapped in one of his overs from
hell. Smith saw it, and ran up to help
his lost fast bowler. He gave him the
large paw on the shoulder, and
deciding that Morne could use a bit
more support, he stayed at mid-off
until he was satisfied Morne was
okay. Only then did he return to fill
the massive hole he left at slip. That
The squat is the same. So are the
massive shoulders that his massive
jaw is virtually on top of, clearly vis-
ible beneath a massive helmet. The
arm guard is pointed straight at the
umpire. His toes bobble up and
down. There are two precise slow
taps of the bat. Knees bent, back
hunched like he is too big for his
equipment, too big to even be that
good at batting. He holds the bat
like only he could lift it, not so he
can swing it, but more so he can
drop it on the ball.
And he faces Glenn McGrath.
McGrath, the seasoned veteran who
still looks like a boy, bowling to the
confident boy with the man s body.
In any sort of hand-to-hand combat,
McGrath would likely be crushed.
But with the ball, against a young
kid thrown in at No. 3, McGrath
wins often. Caught by Ponting, for
3. In the second innings, Smith fights
back. He turns balls from off stump
to the leg side with that twist of his
arms you will know so much you
could imitate it drunk at 3 am. When
facing Shane Warne, he ll lean for-
ward, eager to show he is not afraid
of Warne. Then, when the ball suits
him and he gets some air, he ll race
at Warne, stamping his feet and loft-
ing over mid-on with a beautiful
lack of elegance. Eventually Warne
will take the brash kid s wicket.
Caught behind, by Gilchrist, for 68.
At Newlands, in 2002, that kid
making his Test debut was dismissed
twice, by four legends of the game.
Smith s form continued and he
thought, rightfully, that he should
have been in South Africa s squad
to play the 2003 World Cup at home.
And he wanted to make his point.
He did it by demanding he captain
Western Province against South
Africa in a warm-up match. A bold
move from someone his age. What
was supposed to be an intra-SA
friendly match turned darker and
tougher when Smith demanded that
his players take it seriously and take
down the main team.
It could have gone horribly wrong.
Considering the players on both
sides, it probably should have. West-
ern Province won by seven wickets
and almost 20 overs to spare. That s
not a contest. In the later games,
which Smith did not captain, the
senior team smashed their opposi-
tion. They had been burned once.
Smith s biggest impact might have
been when he and Shaun Pollock
went toe to toe during one of those
matches. The issue was trivial. Smith
was upset that Pollock wasn t adher-
ing to the fielding conditions of an
ODI match. He wanted it done prop-
erly, Pollock was just happy to have
a warm-up. Here was a player in
and out of the national team standing
in the face of Pollock, a legend and
captain. That is something people
Smith had captained Gauteng
school teams many times, and had
experience in a few other senior
games. But basically, that game he
won for Western Province and him
leading South Africa A in a comeback
2-1 win against a good Zimbabwe
side was about it. And Shaun Pollock
was captaining South Africa in the
World Cup. Graeme Smith wasn t
even in the squad.
Hosting the World Cup was a
monumental deal for South Africa.
They wanted people to see that they
were growing, that they were chang-
ing and that their part of the world
was getting it right. On one day of
the tournament, someone who
brought the old South African flag
into a ground was turfed out. None
of that, people are watching, we
must be at our best.
Their team wasn t. They were so
bad it even made news in the US
when they crashed out of the tour-
nament before it really began. Smith
came in for three games, after Jonty
Rhodes was ruled out with injury,
and averaged 40. In Durban, he made
35 opening the batting against Sri
Lanka. That s not what people
remember from that game. They
remember that South Africa got their
Duckworth-Lewis calculation wrong.
They became a laughing stock to the
world, but at home they were upset.
So upset that despite being the
second-ranked ODI team, the sec-
ond-ranked Test team and having
won 13 of their last 16 Test series,
Pollock was out. They needed some-
It was stupid and reactionary. A
jumbo panic button to stop the
yelling. Cricket administrators are
nothing if not adept at offering sac-
rificial lambs for the press and fans
to slaughter. Graham Ford was upset
Pollock was gone, "Polly was a soft
target. All I can conclude is that peo-
ple hit on him in order to save their
Former South Africa coach, the
late Bob Woolmer, said during that
World Cup, "There is a vacuum in
South African cricket. South Africa
is not producing the type of crick-
eters it used to anymore. Many crick-
eters, both black and white, are not
sure what the future holds for them."
It wasn t just Woolmer thinking this.
Allan Donald and Rhodes were done.
Gary Kirsten was next. Pollock was
It wasn t a vacuum, but a mon-
umental chasm. And it needed to
A vetting committee to help find
a captain was formed. It was the
national professional selection advice
committee, or something like that.
They didn t have many options.
Kirsten was not going to last long.
Mark Boucher was a wicketkeeper.
Jacques Kallis was who he was. All
they had was a young lad who had
Presence is like an X-factor, hard
to explain, but Smith had this
immense presence when he was in
front of you. Monstrous confidence
radiated through him. Somehow he
comforted the leaders of South
African cricket, and they completely
forgot their history as a conservative
cricket nation, and Smith bustled
his way through.
Smith was the youngest captain
of his country. Almost 50 years earlier
Ian Craig had been the same for
Australia---a teen prodigy who had
taken the job when Australia des-
perately needed someone. The idea
was he would lead a youngish side
into the promised land. He had
already toured England, and cap-
tained New South Wales to a Shield
win, and with six Tests to his name
he took over the main job. He was
practically the same age as Smith
when he took over.
Despite having no quota system,
a solid year of captaining older men
behind him, no 24-hour news cycle
or the internet, Craig, the young
batting genius, captained in only one
Test series---series he won, but in
which he made no real runs and
tried to drop himself for the last
match. Due to illness and bad form,
and without the backing of senior
players, Craig was ruined.
There were some in South Africa
who were worried that something
similar would happen to Smith. So
there was a compromise that was
considered, a thought that Smith
could be an apprentice to Pollock.
Pollock said no, Smith said no. They
were different men. Pollock backed
Smith. Smith backed Smith.
Thirty-five days after his Western
Province team had beaten South
Africa, Smith was captain of his
The boy giant who stood up to legends
Graeme Smith plundered Australia to set South Africa on course for the
greatest ODI heist in history. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Part 2 continues on Friday
ROME---The president of the Italian
swimming federation, Paolo Barelli, has
offered to resign if fraud accusations
directed at him are proved true in an
escalating feud with the country's Olympic
CONI, the Olympic committee,
denounced the swimming federation in
court last month after an internal audit
cast doubt on the use of more than
€800,000 (around US$1 million) that was
intended for pool improvements for the
2009 swimming world championships in
Barelli, who is also honorary secretary of
world aquatics body FINA and president of
the European body LEN, defended himself
Wednesday at a CONI meeting.
He said: "If the fraud charge is proved, I
will resign immediately, as will my
Barelli added that, if the charge is not
true, "someone must pay the
Italian and European swim chief faces fraud claim
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