Pretoria News - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS [email protected]

GRAEME Smith has never been afraid of a chal­lenge. Any­one that takes on the lead­er­ship role of a na­tional team aged 23 rarely is.

But even Smith must have been won­der­ing how broad his shoul­ders re­ally were af­ter his first few weeks in the hot seat as Cricket SA’s act­ing di­rec­tor of cricket.

Not only were the Proteas’ Men’s team los­ing to Eng­land at home, but the for­mer Test veteran was be­ing hauled over the coals for hand­ing out “jobs for pals” and be­ing part of a “white­wash” that was re­claim­ing cricket in South Africa.

There was also an ele­phant in the room that re­quired Smith’s ur­gent at­ten­tion. Faf du Plessis’s ten­ure as Proteas cap­tain was com­ing un­der in­creased scru­tiny, par­tic­u­larly with the skip­per be­ing short of runs in the Test for­mat.

To add to Smith’s “To-do-List” was the dis­mal per­for­mance of the Ju­nior Proteas in the ICC U-19 World Cup on home soil, while the Proteas’ Women’s team were not in­spir­ing any form of con­fi­dence ahead of their trip Down Un­der for the ICC T20 World Cup.

It’s no won­der I see Smith ev­ery morn­ing in the gym, hit­ting the tread­mill hard, in a bid not just to keep his fit­ness lev­els up but to also main­tain some form of san­ity.

The past week I’ve been greeted with a big­ger smile though. It seems like the ini­tial teething prob­lems start­ing any job seem to be iron­ing them­selves out.

It has helped that Smith has tack­led some of the press­ing is­sues head on. The first on the list was sit­ting down with Du Plessis, and mak­ing Faf re­alise that he still had a cru­cial role to play within the Proteas set-up, but that the team needed to move on with a new leader in the form of Quin­ton de Kock.

It gave the Proteas di­rec­tion and it in­spired con­fi­dence in the young lads play­ing for De Kock. And once they also re­alised they could not rely solely on De Kock as the team’s pri­mary source of runs, there was a sud­den trans­for­ma­tion that saw the likes of Hein­rich Klaasen, Jan­ne­man Malan and Jon-Jon Smuts flour­ish­ing un­der the new regime.

Sud­denly, the smiles were back and the re­sults were forth­com­ing and South Africa trounced a pow­er­ful Aus­tralian team, in­clud­ing the likes of David Warner, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazel­wood and Pat Cum­mins 3-0 in the fi­nal act of the sum­mer.

It was a re­sult that would have given Smith be­lief that he was not run­ning into a brick wall.

But the real ray of hope would have been the Women’s team’s per­for­mance at the T20 World Cup. Although Smith would not have had much to do with the prepa­ra­tion of the team in the build-up to Aus­tralia, he has since been mon­i­tor­ing Dane van Niek­erk’s side closely.

The “feel-good-fac­tor” around women’s cricket is ex­actly the pos­i­tiv­ity cricket in South Africa des­per­ately needs af­ter the past 12 months. Smith is not obliv­i­ous to this fact and is des­per­ate to help im­prove the struc­tures around the team even fur­ther.

He also re­alises there is a unique bond that ex­ists in that team and knows that any changes that are to be made need to be sub­tle and in ac­cor­dance with the spirit and ethos of the squad.

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