Graeme Smith is back — and car­ry­ing a big bat

SA’s iconic leader will be­come the new di­rec­tor of cricket

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By BARENG-BATHO KORTJAAS [email protected]­day­

South African cricket’s Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic, Graeme Smith, is back — and in the pow­er­ful po­si­tion of di­rec­tor of cricket.

The most suc­cess­ful Test cricket cap­tain in history at first with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion for the job, but has now ap­par­ently been per­suaded to take it up.

He will start work in the com­ing weeks, just be­fore Eng­land be­gin their tour here. Cricket SA was un­der pressure to ap­point some­one to the job af­ter the na­tional team’s re­cent poor per­for­mance on tour in In­dia.

The Proteas have suf­fered five suc­ces­sive Test de­feats this year and were also elim­i­nated early from the World Cup.

Smith will take on the job with the im­por­tant, and lu­cra­tive, tour by Eng­land set to start on Box­ing Day.

Eng­land will play four Tests against SA, three one-day in­ter­na­tion­als and three Twenty20 matches.

The di­rec­tor of cricket po­si­tion was first pro­posed af­ter the 2015 Cricket World Cup when SA were beaten in the semi­fi­nals by New Zealand.

It be­came es­sen­tial af­ter SA were beaten by Eng­land, Bangladesh, In­dia, New Zealand and Pak­istan in this year’s World Cup.

The Proteas did win against Sri Lanka and Aus­tralia, when it no longer mattered in the tour­na­ment.

SA’s dif­fi­cul­ties ex­tended to the Test matches. The Proteas lost at home against Sri Lanka, the first Asian Test team to win a se­ries in SA.

The se­ries de­feat by Sri Lanka at home was fol­lowed by three heavy de­feats against In­dia away. The lat­est de­feat also cost Proteas coach Ot­tis Gib­son his job, with only an in­terim coach ap­pointed in his place.

● Graeme Smith is set to be named Cricket SA’s new di­rec­tor of cricket in the com­ing weeks.

The Sun­day Times has it on good au­thor­ity that Smith will put pen to pa­per on a fouryear con­tract that will run un­til the end of the next Cricket World Cup, which will be hosted in In­dia in 2023.

In­sid­ers privy to be­hind-the-scenes deal­ings in­formed this news­pa­per that Smith was a shoo-in to re­place the sus­pended in­terim di­rec­tor, Cor­rie van Zyl, for the top cricket post in the coun­try. Van Zyl acted in the po­si­tion for the dis­as­trous In­dian tour when SA were white­washed.

It is un­der­stood Smith will have carte blanche to de­cide who will be the team di­rec­tor. The post is cur­rently oc­cu­pied by High­veld Li­ons coach Enoch Nkwe on an in­terim ba­sis.

Chief among his du­ties will be to over­see all the na­tional teams, de­velop a strat­egy for im­prov­ing the do­mes­tic game as well as drawing up a long-term plan to be suc­cess­ful at the 2023 World Cup in In­dia.

“Be­cause it is a new po­si­tion, CSA want to give him the con­fi­dence of de­cid­ing how things must be ar­ranged,” said an­other source. He must set up his stall in the way he be­lieves will help turn the tide for the na­tional teams.”

CSA started en­gag­ing Smith, 38, at the World Cup in Eng­land and fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tin­ued beyond that.

Smith, who turned out 345 times for the Proteas across all for­mats, and cap­tained them 284 times, got the CSA nod ahead of Hus­sein Manack, Dave Nos­wor­thy and Van Zyl who were also in­ter­viewed for the po­si­tion.

Van Zyl was sus­pended early this month for dere­lic­tion of duty. He stands ac­cused of fail­ure to pay com­mer­cial rights fees for last year’s Mzansi Su­per League.

“We are still busy with the process. Once we are com­fort­able where the process is go­ing to lead, that is when we are go­ing to an­nounce the suc­cess­ful can­di­date,” said Tha­bang Moroe, CSA CEO.

Smith be­came the youngest cap­tain of SA when he as­sumed the role aged 22 in 2003 fol­low­ing SA’s World Cup dis­as­ter.

He went on to be­come the most suc­cess­ful skip­per in Test cricket history with 53 wins, sur­pass­ing Aus­tralian great Ricky Ponting’s 48 Test wins.

South African cricket has been in free fall punc­tu­ated by an early exit at the 2019 World Cup in Eng­land and Wales.

The hor­ren­dous World Cup oust­ing was fol­lowed by an equally ap­palling show­ing on the In­dia tour. Out of seven Tests in 2019, SA have lost five con­sec­u­tive ones against In­dia away and Sri Lanka at home.

It is against that back­drop of ad­ver­sity that Smith, who fa­mously bat­ted with a bro­ken hand against Aus­tralia in Syd­ney 10 years ago and got a stand­ing ova­tion from the crowd, is seen as some­one who can bring the bite back into the na­tional team. When

Smith as­sumed the cap­taincy as a 22-yearold in 2003, SA had just been bun­dled out of their own World Cup.

“It seems that CSA officials have agreed that he is the first per­son to come in as cap­tain and changed how we play cricket.

“In­stead of be­ing a tame SA that was a punch­ing bag for every­body, we learnt how to fight back through him.”

Smith’s ap­point­ment will rep­re­sent a turn­around from de­vel­op­ments of a few weeks back when he pulled out of the race.

On Novem­ber 14 Smith tweeted that he had pulled out of the race.

“Fol­low­ing the news in the me­dia this week that I [was] in­ter­viewed for the CSA di­rec­tor of cricket role, I feel it nec­es­sary to con­firm that I have un­for­tu­nately with­drawn my in­ter­est in the role.

“I would love to have taken on the role. How­ever, de­spite my ob­vi­ous desire to make a dif­fer­ence, dur­ing the long and, at times, frus­trat­ing process over the last 10 or so weeks of dis­cus­sions, I have not de­vel­oped the nec­es­sary con­fi­dence that I would be given the level of free­dom and sup­port to ini­ti­ate the re­quired changes.

“My pas­sion for our na­tion’s crick­et­ing for­tunes re­mains stead­fast and I give my heart­felt best wishes to whomever does take the role on. I will con­tinue to sup­port the teams and give my advice and guid­ance when­ever I can.”

That whomever has turned out to be Smith him­self. Smith was not avail­able for com­ment.

Pic­ture: Sim­phiwe Nk­wali

Graeme Smith re­ceived a hero's wel­come when he re­turned to SA af­ter the Proteas’ vic­tory over the Aus­tralians in 2009. He played the third Test with a bro­ken hand and got a stand­ing ova­tion from the crowd.

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