Cape Town – Outgoing Proteas Test captain Graeme Smith seems
unlikely to be completely lost to the national cause.
He has also said that the seeds for his decision to retire,
now after well over a decade at the helm, had been sown when Gary Kirsten, also
a former team-mate, had stepped down as South Africa’s coach.
At an emotional press conference – both for Smith and the
assembled scribes -- following the tense defeat to Australia in the decisive
third Test at Newlands here on Wednesday, the 33-year-old said: “There are
certain challenges to be met and I would love to play a role in helping Cricket
South Africa with those things.
“Who knows where that will be in the future, but I feel I
have gained a lot of experience with a lot of people over many years and feel I
still have a lot to offer South African cricket.
“I will cherish the relationships I have developed within
this team for the rest of my life. We have a diverse, strong culture ... we
have earned so many wonderful victories around the world. The diversity of this
team is our strength, and I have been proud to build and embrace that
“I wish the Proteas all the success in the world and hope
they go from strength to strength. I hope the players in there really embrace
the opportunities that come their way and give our fans things to be proud of
in the years to come.
“I know I will be somewhere, whether it be on the couch or
part of some organisation ... I don’t know where it is right now ... but I know
I will be a big supporter of the team for the rest of my life.”
Asked whether the retirement of his friend and veteran
team-mate Jacques Kallis over the festive season had made him think more deeply
about his own playing future for the Proteas, Smith replied: “It was certainly
already on my mind then (at the Kingsmead Test, when SA clinched the series
against India). But I think when Gary left as coach ... that was when the
process sort of started for me.
“I still feel I could perform, and perform well, over the
next period of time, but I have a real peace inside of myself that this was the
time for me to go.”
Smith lauded the Baggy Greens: “We’ve been outplayed in this
Test match (he said Australia deserved the 2-1 series win – Sport24) but we
still found a way to take the last Test as deep as possible.
“The skill, determination and mental strength we showed
today – a lot of guys changed their natural game-plans – nearly made for a
“It’s been a fighting series for us more than a well played
series, (but) I saw enough qualities today to remind that the Proteas will stay
really strong for a period of time. We showed strength of character.”
Inevitably quizzed about his decision to announce his
retirement in mid-Test, Smith explained: “It felt like the time was right for
me. The want in me was to do it before this Test started but there was stuff
going on ... my daughter in and out of hospital ... you kind of get distracted.
“So to get that last step, I took it in the game. I realised
this is the place I wanted to end my career; it felt right. It took courage to
get that last five percent to finally make the decision. I felt it was time to
He produced some vintage diplomacy when asked about the
pitches presented for the home series, where decks seldom favouring SA’s
seamers were presented and it has been whispered there was dissatisfaction in
the Proteas dressing room.
“I don’t know if this is the right place to get into that now.
There are some important things that need to be tightened a little bit. An
environment needs to be created that can make success for these players.”
Similarly, when asked how difficult it was to captain South
Africa, he dead-batted cleverly: “Guys, I think today is a day that I would
like to celebrate that opportunity I had.
“The challenges are always well documented and spoken about,
and maybe over-elaborated at times, but I think it’s a huge privilege to lead
“It’s a really proud sporting nation, and I’ve been proud to
lead (the national cricket team) for 12 years. I only see that as a highlight.”
The likelihood that Smith will find some sort of future role
with CSA – mentoring comes particularly to mind as an obvious start – was
probably only enhanced when CEO Haroon Lorgat paid tribute to Smith at the
start of the press conference.
He began by saying: “Welcome to what may or may not be
Graeme’s last press conference because I think a person of Graeme Smith’s
stature will (reappear) somewhere or the other.
“We owe Graeme a lot of gratitude and admire what he has
achieved and I am sure he will be involved in some form or the other ... it’s
up to him to decide, and we will certainly listen to him as he is a man of
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