Australia in SA

Biff hints at future SA role

2014-03-05 22:46
Graeme Smith and family (AFP)

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 environment.

“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 fairytale.

“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 move on.”

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 this country.

“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 leadership quality.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ozinsa  |  graeme smith  |  cape town  |  cricket

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