Johannesburg - Developing depth is the key to South Africa maintaining their top status in Test cricket, Proteas captain Graeme Smith said here on Thursday.
“After we won in England last year, I said then that depth was going to be the key factor in us maintaining the number one Test team ranking,” Smith said.
“If we do have injuries, having people who can step in is very important and we’ve already taken big steps down that road.”
Going into the third and final Test against Pakistan, in Centurion on Friday, seam bowler Morne Morkel was injured and, once again, Rory Kleinveldt would be the go-to man.
“It’s always nice to have that support base and have other bowlers challenging for places. It creates good competition within the squad and keeps everyone on their toes.
“If guys can keep performing domestically, then that’s what you’d want. You want a strong domestic system so people can step up if need be.”
For the first time in recent memory, South Africa are on the brink of a 3-0 series whitewash and a victory would also give Smith his 50th Test win as captain.
He surpassed Australia’s Ricky Ponting (48), the previous record holder, with last week’s victory over Pakistan in the Newlands Test.
“Fifty is a milestone number which is a great achievement, not only for me but also for the quality cricketers I have played with who are part of that record,” he said.
“My mind is set firstly, on achieving the 50 and then, hopefully, on growing that number even more.”
Smith said it was not often a team boasted the quality of players the Proteas had at the moment, which was able to produce the type of results they had managed recently but he was taking nothing for granted.
“I’m very focused on maintaining that standard, so we can look back and say ‘we did ourselves proud.'
“If I can look back and say ‘I was a stepping stone to taking the Proteas to the top echelon of world cricket for a period of time’, I would be extremely proud.”
It had been a long road getting to this point as captain, Smith said, but now he could actually enjoy the successes and knew he was a part of something special.
The Proteas have been dominant this season, with no home Test going to a fifth day. Smith said it was hard for him to pinpoint the reasons for the team’s recent success.
“It’s been an ongoing process since readmission and everything is now coming together for us. The squad is performing well as a group and we have some highly skilled players who are very motivated.
“Our management structure and all our processes are a lot more professional than they used to be, and we want to be moving in that direction.”
The Centurion Test would be their last for several months and Smith said they would not be taking their foot off the pedal, despite the Proteas' unassailable 2-0 lead.
“We would love to finish our summer at home on a high note after a lengthy Test year.
“It’s been a successful time for us and our approach to this Test is no different. We’ve really worked hard on being a process-driven team and making sure we attack our challenges the same way each time. So this Test is no different - the energy at training was good and we remain focused.”