Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 7th 2014 Contents A39
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The first part of this series was published
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 had barely played outside South Africa---
a few ODIs in Sri Lanka---and he knew little of
international cricket. But Smith knew he wanted
to conquer it. He knew he wanted the team to
lead, and with eight Tests and 22 ODIs to his
name, he went about it.
Smith quickly distanced himself from disgraced
(but still loved) former captain Cronje at his first
press conference. What was left of Cronje s team
was also leaving. He also distanced himself from
Pollock as a leader.
Pollock was laid back and magically gifted. It
had been bred in him. Smith was a worker and
his team would be more like him. South Africa
would get to the ground earlier, and train harder
and longer. More would be made of the nation-
alistic side of playing for the country. Smith
wanted his men as inspired and prepared as he
Smith also said stupid things in the early days.
People didn t like him for it. He was not the only
22-year old to say stupid things, but he wasn t
a normal 22-year old. Australia seemed to hate
him on first sight and felt betrayed that he men-
tioned their sledging in public. Some in South
Africa felt he was more mouth than talent. And
he arrived in England full of words.
It was in England that his career as captain
really started. With Matthew Hayden sledging
him from many time zones away, and Nasser
Hussain s massive insult of "wotshisname"
was learning that being captain involved more
than just turning up half an hour earlier at the
ground. So he reacted in a brutal way. He scored
277. His second double-century in 11 Tests. In
his 12th, he would score another. Hussain retired.
Hayden looked silly.
From there, Smith built an empire based around
the all-round brilliance of Kallis, champion
bowlers of different eras, two of the sexiest batting
talents in modern cricket. He balanced all this
on his frame. No matter how good the other
players were, or how amazing their feats were,
everyone knew who the leader was. He was at
the front, and hard to miss.
Smith made a bunch of runs in the second
best chase in Tests and the best chase in ODIs.
He added Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss
to England captains he saw off. He was in charge
when South Africa were the No 1 ODI team. He
was in charge when they were the No 1 Test
Team. And it was under Smith that Australia s
reign as the best team finally ended.
He did it all while opening the batting. When
Smith is on the field, he has a little telltale sign
that he is thinking hard, or something is going
wrong for him. He slips his cap back a bit on
his head, and rubs the front of his hair. Unlike
most captains, he hasn t gone grey or even started
to bald, despite that hefty duke rubbing his head
several times a day. Then, after all that thinking,
Smith goes out to bat. When he does that he
With a dodgy technique, a frame too large for
batting, political pressures on selection, the chief
executive who gave him the job sacked, the pres-
sure of captaincy for over a decade, a few coaches,
a public split with an it girl, growing into a man,
dealing with a friend s career-ending injury, chok-
ing at World Cups, a long-distance relationship,
and kids with illnesses, Smith still kept that aver-
age. That is a feat of a hungry giant.
But nothing is ever enough. In 2011, South
African crowds booed Smith shortly after his
team lost the World Cup quarterfinal to New
Zealand. A forensic examination of that South
African team suggested a middle order that could
be a problem under extreme temperatures. But,
they had Hashim Amla, Smith, AB de Villiers
and Kallis in the top four. Chasing a total of 221,
I mean, come on. South Africa had tried to pro-
mote the phrase C is for Champions
. But after
that, well, C went back to its old friend Choke.
Smith was one hell of a leader, but even he could
not carry his team to a World Cup victory, or
even a final.
After the game, the South African players went
home to show how sad they were at the airport.
Smith did not. He went to Ireland. This seemed
to infuriate everyone. It would turn out that he
was doing to so seal the deal with the current
Mrs. Deane-Smith. But he didn t take his pun-
ishment from the fans.
So the most successful captain in South Africa s
history, the man who took his team to No 1, who
slayed Australia and burnt down English captains,
was booed by his crowd. Some never forgave
Smith for being brash when he was young. Others
simply never stopped loving the confessed match-
fixer Hansie Cronje (voted 11th greatest South
African in a SABC poll in 2004). Even in Port
Elizabeth, where Smith orchestrated a comeback
win against the odds, there was a man wearing
a Cronje t-shirt in the crowd. Cronje wasn t the
batsman Smith was. He wasn t the leader Smith
was. He wasn t even the man that Smith was.
But if you search the internet with questions
about who the better captain was, you ll get
bizarre answers like "Hansie WAS the best, unfor-
tunately due to circumstances apparently beyond
his control ... he was forced to do the devils
work." And " I suppose it also depends on whether
you like Graeme Smith or not! Personally I cannot
stand him. I loved Hansie and he was a brilliant
It s hard to argue that Cronje was not a good
tactician in the field, certainly more adventurous
than Smith, but Smith averaged 12 runs more,
beat Australia in Australia and England in England
when Cronje never did, lost the same amount
of World Cups, has a similar win-loss record,
captained a team to No 1 in two forms of the
game and never ever sold out his country for a
And Smith did it all after starting as the
youngest captain in his nation s history, and then
becoming the longest serving.
Smith has been in charge for 4006 days. In
that time, a boy band could form, become No.
1, tour the world, split up to do solo stuff, end
up in rehab, and then reform as retro throwback
to appeal to their original fans.
In 2003, we didn t know what an iPhone was,
there was no Facebook and Julian Assange was
an angry Melbourne hacker. There are 15-year
old kids who have grown up only knowing Smith
as captain. He has longevity, results and integrity.
He isn t perfect, and has certainly spent years
trying to prove that left-hand batsmen aren t
actually more aesthetically appealing than right-
hand batsmen. But he deserves to be respected
as brutal, ugly monolith of world cricket. The
large guy who was always there.
Since the age of ten, Smith had been saying
he wanted to captain his country. He put goals
on his fridge, and he accomplished them. Then
he helped his country finally live up to its potential,
while guiding a whole generation of players. But
he isn t that kid anymore, he now has his own
kids, one with an illness whom he needs to spend
more time with. He isn t the angry young man
demanding to get into the team, he isn t the
bullish guy spraying people at press conferences,
he is the old guy looking at a quieter life with
Australia waited in formation to honour him.
The giant squeezed through them and out onto
the pitch. His Western Province wicket. Clutching
his GM chunk of tree, he would lead his country
one last time. Them always behind him. He led.
He led for a long time. He led well. The brutish
behemoth. Biff leads. Then Biff leaves.
Leaving a tremendous hole that would take
more than one man to fill.
The boy giant who stood up to legends
Graeme Smith led
South Africa to a
Test series victory
in Australia twice.
DORAL---Tiger Woods made it through
only six holes until he walked off the golf
course---along with the other 67 players at
The opening round of the Cadillac
Championship was delayed for more than
two hours because of a large band of
thunderstorms that eventually dumped
rain on the new Blue Monster at Trump
Woods was 1-over par through six
holes, picking up his lone bogey on the par-
3 fourth hole when he went long of the
US PGA Championship winner Jason
Dufner ran off four straight birdies at the
start of his round, and then made birdie on
the par-5 first hole to reach 5-under par
when the round was halted. He was one
shot ahead of Russell Henley, coming off a
win last week in the Honda Classic. Henley
was on the other side of the course.
The first round brought plenty of
curiosity, starting with Woods.
The world's No 1 player withdrew after
13 holes in the final round at the Honda
Classic on Sunday because of lower back
pain and spasms.
A steady start for Tiger Woods at Doral
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