Pakistan in SA
Smith: This '100' more special
Graeme Smith (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Proteas captain Graeme Smith says that leading the country 100 times in Tests is the personal landmark that has held the most pleasure for him over the past fortnight.
The big left-handed batsman becomes the first national leader ever to reach that tally when the second Test against Pakistan begins at Newlands here on Thursday.
It has been a strange few days for Smith because the first Test at the Wanderers also earned him some personal fanfare: it marked his 100th as a captain in the Test arena more broadly, although that number included the ICC “SuperTest” between Australia and a World XI in Sydney several years ago which was an experiment largely judged to have flopped.
Asked by Sport24 which of the two landmarks meant more to him, Smith replied at his captain’s pre-match press conference on Wednesday: “Representing South Africa 100 times as captain is the mark that means the most to me. Certainly the Proteas brand, being a part of this team, is something very important to myself and the rest of the guys.
“So to achieve a milestone like this in these colours ... I will remember it for a very long time.
“I think also coming to Newlands ... it’s our marquee Test ground in South Africa. The fans always make it special, and we’ve played well here, so to come and achieve a milestone at this ground is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Smith also revealed the special burden that comes with adulation for reaching particular statistical landmarks.
“The more accolades there are, the more expectation there is around your own performance - before the last Test I woke at four in the morning dreaming I’d got a pair, so I had to deal with that emotion on day one!
“I’ve just tried to make sure my own preparation is good, as good as for any other game, and not take anything for granted.
“When I get the chance to sit back in an evening, I’d like to really (reflect properly on) what has happened over the last period of time. It’s really been amazing. I don’t want to shy away from this, it’s been highlight of my career.”
Smith says his No 1-ranked charges will be wary of a possibly regrouped Pakistan outfit.
“They’re probably in a pretty dangerous position, as a team having been beaten comprehensively at the Wanderers.
“They’re probably used to vastly different performance ... we can’t under-estimate the ability and talent they have, certainly with the ball. We know if there’s one team who could bounce back from a performance like that, it could be (them).
“But there’s always a good feeling around our own team whenever we’re at Newlands.”
What of the likelihood that the tourists will introduce the peculiarly lanky left-arm seamer Mohammad Irfan to their mix for a match they cannot lose if the series is to stay alive?
Smith said there had been no special orders for people to hurl balls at his batsmen off stilts or boxes: “Morne (Morkel) is not too far off Mohammad Irfan, I think, but it’ll still be a unique experience – it’s always difficult to try to re-enact those sort of things so it will be about how we handle it in the middle.
“I’m not too sure how the wicket here will play but if it gets hot over the weekend it will generally get flatter and start to take a bit of spin.
But as with so many South African pitches the new ball ought to have something in it.
“Most times in South Africa it’s a bit of a 50-50 call at (the toss). You don’t automatically arrive at one of our grounds and say ‘it’s a batting day, definitely’.
“We’ll assess tomorrow, but generally you want to get out there and post a total and create pressure that way.”*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
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