Thursday, 6 March 2014
Robust yet subtle, muscular yet elegant – Few could carry the aura as graciously as South Africa's green-eyed boy, Graeme Smith. A decade of excellence involving top-notch batting and incredible captaincy finally comes to an end, leaving behind some wonderful memories.
I've never liked a lot of left-handed batsmen, of course with the exception of Alastair Cook. Watching Graeme Smith bat was something that happened randomly. At 22, this young man was handed one of the most tedious jobs of a cricketer – leadership. And boy, what has he done! South Africa's youngest captain had a huge task ahead of him, and he had no qualms about it.
For the past 11 years, South African cricket flourished under Smith's tutelage. What I find remarkable is the fact that his batting was hardly affected by the responsibility of captaincy, in fact it only became better. 27 Test hundreds and none of them involved a South Africa defeat – this has to be one of a kind! The Proteas haven't won an ICC trophy under him, but that doesn't undermine Smith's capability as a leader. He was upfront, brutal and spot on – in everything he did. His achievements as South Africa's most successful Test captain only became a reassurance.
Biff was one of the few cricketers I grew up watching and admiring. For me, South African cricket and Graeme Smith almost always sounded synonymous. It still does. Watching him marshaling his troops had become a habit of sorts. It will be hard to imagine a South African side sans Smith.
Perhaps, my best memory of a dedicated Graeme Smith will always be the 2009 Sydney Test against Australia, where the courageous captain came out to bat with a broken hand and departed to a loud applause and standing ovation from the crowd.
Goodbye, Biff. Thank you for the memories.