Double burden on Biff

2011-03-10 08:28

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Graeme Smith’s largely undisputed nerves of steel are about to face up to another big obstacle as South Africa contemplate Saturday’s Cricket World Cup Group B crunch with India at Nagpur.

BLOG: Smashing leather, naked truths and a dislike for Garden Snakes

The Proteas captain goes into the encounter wrestling a couple of issues involving his own one-day international game.

His form has been patchy in the arena of late, including the first three South African matches at the World Cup, where he has “got in” each time – albeit never with any compelling fluency – for scores of 45 (West Indies), 20 (Netherlands) and 22 (England) and then been dismissed.

For someone who so obviously gets his batting kicks through “dominating”, there must be a creeping sense of frustration – it has been some 25 innings, for instance, since he last scored an ODI century although that is not always the be all and end all in limited-overs cricket.

That knock was back in September 2009, when he registered a fighting, career-best 141 in the Champions Trophy against England at Centurion – albeit in a losing cause after an unusually high-scoring tussle.

Also not helping his own planetary alignment, as it were, is that he will almost certainly be running slap bang at Nagpur into the bowler who can truly be said to have his number at present – the wily Indian left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan.

Khan has a near-zealous, wide-eyed stare at the best of times but his eyes must light up even more these days when he spots “Biff” taking guard (OK, sometimes it is Hashim Amla first-up and perhaps that’s not the worst thing) while contemplating the first delivery for India.

He did, after all, extend his run of mastery over Smith in South Africa earlier this season, when he snared him in each of the Durban and Cape Town Tests – Zaheer did not play the opener at Centurion through injury – and also got his man in the final ODI.

Something in the ever-dogged Proteas skipper’s favour, however, is that he has had surprisingly few personal opportunities at ODI level against India in their own territory – only four of his 168 overall matches, and all in a 2005 series which South Africa did pretty well to share 2-2.

Not only that, but Smith fared well enough then to share player of the series with Yuvraj Singh, his efforts including a blistering innings of 134 not out at Eden Gardens which earned the Proteas a rare away slaughter of these opponents by 10 wickets.

Partner Andrew Hall (a rather more sedate 48 not out) was a willing passenger as Smith made spectacularly short shrift of an undemanding chase of 189 to win.

The Wisden Almanack report on the game notes that of his 20 fours (and a six), “many scorched past cover and point”, a sure sign that Smith’s sometimes cumbersome feet -- which can see him “fall over” and demonstrate an unhealthy level of bias for his favourite leg side – were moving well.

Is there a case for contemplating the possibility of Smith moving down the order to try to thwart Khan’s early ambition – no doubt -- against him on Saturday?

Perhaps, especially in this climate of far greater flexibility by the Proteas, and given that the big customer is capable of seeking out the boundary and generally keeping the scoreboard moving at most stages of an ODI innings.

But then again, the South African captain is big on the “lead from the front” principle and would probably hate to send out any sort of message that he is somehow ducking out of a skirmish.

I suspect that despite his relative misery at times against Zaheer, he will only want to wrestle the left-arm swingster beast in the belief that he can emphatically lay demons to rest.

He has done so before, whatever his never-ending knockers may say ...


  • alessandroz067 - 2011-03-10 08:43

    Even if the captain doesn't perform, he should be dropped.

      Colin Dovey - 2011-03-10 10:08

      YOU should be Captain - armchair critics there are aplenty.

      alessandroz067 - 2011-03-10 10:43

      @Colin: I am captain

      Met Uysh! - 2011-03-10 11:12

      Ja, and then you'd make Robbie Peterson the captain.

      alessandroz067 - 2011-03-10 11:22

      He'll still be a better option than botha the weakest link.

      Sipho - 2011-03-10 17:09

      I agree with @alessandroz067. You would make a great captain... :) Alessandro for captain

  • li'l cherub - 2011-03-10 08:59

    "undisputed nerves of steel"..........this should have been published in the Entertainment section!

      Redwine - 2011-03-10 09:04

      More like science fiction I say.

      Bob - 2011-03-10 11:18

      li'l cherub, I have to agree, I'm not sure where Mr Smith got that reputation "nerves of steel", me thinks thats a bit over the top, I'm not saying the guy is a choker, but nerves of steel ? Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus from golf had nerves of steel, Matfield and Johnson from rugby, from cricket Kuiper and Kluesner from SA, Internationally Botham, Viv Richards and Imran Khan spring to mind, Smith would not feature on my top 100 list.

      Zandberg - 2011-03-10 13:56

      Ol' Bob and his classic re-runs...

  • BigD - 2011-03-10 09:12

    Lets see what happen against India. I do predict that SA will win easily. Old Smith will have a good knock, and will sneer at his detrators. But wait old Smith, the quarter finals are coming up and you could face Sri Lanka or Pakkistan. That is where the true WC starts. Then we will see how big and hard your goons actually are. I think you have goons made of pres stick :-)

      Bob - 2011-03-10 09:55

      BigD, so you predict SA will win easily, something they couldn't do on their own grounds that are more suited to the SA bowling attack and indeed to the SA batsmen, but now the two teams are playing in India, on pitches suited to the Indian bowling attack and suited to their batsmen you predict SA will win easily, think you might be the goon here.

      goat - 2011-03-10 10:27

      Hi Bob, you say these pitches favour India ,so then why were they on the verge of defeat against England who also have totally different batting conditions in their country,they are producing flat tracks at present which favour the spin bowlers at present with the pace bowlers using the revers swing later as the innings progresses ,we have great team and look at yesterdays match on a pitch which you say suits indian batsmen the netherlands had them at 139/5 ,so I do agree it may not be easy but we have a great chance.

      sannahan - 2011-03-10 11:00

      Goat is right! We can do it! This team is serious about this tournament and can put one over the Indians.

      BigD - 2011-03-10 11:28

      Hi Bob. Yes, I do think we will take this one, Smith, Kallis and Dumminy are due for a decent total. Maybe I am the goon here, but if my predictions are right then you will be the goon.

      Bob - 2011-03-10 11:36

      Goat you can't analyse everything like that, England beat SA, Ireland beat England, does that mean Ireland are a better team than SA, NO, I am suggesting India will be very difficult to beat by any team, I sometimes think the top sides struggle to raise their game against the minnows, whereas the minnows see every game as their WC final, of course a strong side like SA has a chance against any side in the WC, personally I would rate SA as the 4th or 5th best side in the comp, but they certainly have the ability to prove me wrong.

  • Gorilla - 2011-03-10 09:22

    All the Smith haters jump on the wagon. How predictable.

      alessandroz067 - 2011-03-10 09:23

      All the Smith lovers jump to defend his poor captaincy and performance, how predictable.

      Travis - 2011-03-10 09:39

      I am with you Gorilla...I believe he is a strong leader and a great batsman, and he will score runs again, and it is so tiresome hearing the moaners...

      Outpost - 2011-03-10 09:41

      How many runs has Kallis achieved in the tournament and nothing is said.

      MaLemmer - 2011-03-10 10:40

      @Outpost. Kallis has class as well as history!

      Neutedop - 2011-03-10 10:54

      Funny how Smith in the last game had 3rd highest score, and left the team with opening partnership of 64 - and still people say it was not good enough!

      alessandroz067 - 2011-03-10 11:24

      @Neutedop: Funny how smith made the thord highest? WTF dude, are you in grade 5?

      alessandroz067 - 2011-03-10 11:25


      Outpost - 2011-03-10 13:43

      @MaLemmer. Totally agree. Read my post below. But so has Smith.

  • Outpost - 2011-03-10 09:34

    What about getting Morne van Wyk to open and hit the ball over the inner ring. If this works, we can move Smith down the order for the batting power play. If this does not work, Smith can come in at number 3. If the comments on Smith's batting is valid, why is nothing said about Kallis's batting? He has not even gone into double figures during this World Cup. Total number of runs = 13. Less than Smith's lowest score. They are both world class players, they will come up with the big innings when it is really needed in the business end of the tournament.

      zooma.lema - 2011-03-10 09:48

      Just move him out of the team.

      RobinB - 2011-03-10 09:54

      @Zooma.lema - How about you MOVE away from this site!! MONKEY!!!

      Colin Dovey - 2011-03-10 10:10

      Cricket is a gentelman's game - sorry zooma (Zuma?) you don't seem to qualify.....:-)

  • Sheriff_24 - 2011-03-10 09:54

    Good article, you can see you have respect for Biff!

  • Straight Forward - 2011-03-10 10:03

    Come on Smith, show us all. make a good score, and give the Indians a hiding, but remember one thing, the quarter finals still loom, so we must be consistently good

  • myblackwatchdog - 2011-03-10 10:05

    "Graeme Smith’s largely undisputed nerves of steel" WHAT A JOKE !!!

      Colin Dovey - 2011-03-10 10:11

      Maybe the joke is you - armchair warrior.....?

      roboman1 - 2011-03-10 12:23

      Colin, never be to disparaging on the armchair critics, it is they who pay the wages! No armchair critics, no TV rights, no pay. Thats how it works. As to the point about Smith's nerves, well as a batsman he seems to shape OK, but I also would not classify him as a man with nerves of steel, but right now, him and Amla are best available, so I would play him. As a skipper he seems to lack people skills.

  • BrettPresent - 2011-03-10 10:05

    good article Rob, but I fear his current lack of form is so pervasive, and so based on fundamental technical issues that he's not going to be able to sort them out before Saturday, let alone further into the CWC, no matter what his mental state or intentions! But here's to hoping!

      Colin Dovey - 2011-03-10 10:12

      Good comment Brett - we ALL, I hope feel the same way, so here's hoping!

  • Zandberg - 2011-03-10 10:30

    Admittedly I am a Smith fan, but lets face the facts. He is going to play. The selectors WILL stick with him. So lets rather support the guy and wish him well. Lets hope he makes a return to form and smashes a big one. To bath in your own glory of saying "I told you so" sounds hollow if that goes hand in hand with the team losing. I stand behind you Biff and my team. Go give them curry carrots!

      sannahan - 2011-03-10 10:56

      Shot, Zandberg! Is there a way one can ban the Hensoppers from commenting? Who needs enemies when your own folk are the cutthroats?

  • Anthony - 2011-03-10 10:53

    Anthony. South Africa has a great team and have a lot of talent and young players, BUT South Africa battle against spin, politics Peterson should not be in the team Botha should be there and Botha is a better captain than Smith.

      Broombastic - 2011-03-10 12:28

      SA is certainly getting better at playing Spin. And they will only improve now that Tahir is in the team. Facing Tahir every day in the nets will certainly help. Look what happened to the Ausie batting side when the likes of Warne/McGrath retired. They were no longer facing the best every day, which makes other bowlers seem easy, and they have since turned to sh1t.

  • ? - 2011-03-10 10:55

    LOOSE rubbish team from a rubbish country,LOOSE

      Dave - 2011-03-10 11:01

      LOSE, you nob.

      Zandberg - 2011-03-10 11:45

      Definition of loose: to unfasten, undo, or untie, as a bond, fetter, or knot. I think the correct term would be "lose", unless you were referring to the relationship between your brain and the rest of your body.

      sannahan - 2011-03-10 11:54

      Hey LOSER! Much of that is true about many countries! We are getting behind the Proteas on Sport24! Go to News24 and submit your comment/s.

      sannahan - 2011-03-10 11:56

      Hey LOSER! Much of that is true about many countries! We are getting behind the Proteas on Sport24! Go to News24 and submit your comment/s.

      ? - 2011-03-10 12:26

      @Zandberg and sannahan, I read your comments,thought about it - ,,im still cheering for Australia. From a moral point of view,Zimbabwe and South Africa are two cancers on the African continent. @Zandberg,sorry for the spelling error,but then again,this isnt an English exam.

      sannahan - 2011-03-10 13:04

      You're entitled to your team preference, but you won't find me daggering Oz. Go bananas / boomerangs about your team, but don't try to kill us off when we still are prepared to live life 'on the chin'.Btw, look out for me tomorrow night. You will see me go bananas when the Sharks put one over the Rebels. GO SAFFAS!

  • roboman1 - 2011-03-10 12:18

    Graham Smith warrants his place in the side as a bastman. He may not be the best skipper around, and he may not have good manners, but in SA right now, the two openers are the best we have available.

  • Bob - 2011-03-10 12:56

    "his never-ending knockers". Aren't you confusing him with his ex-girlfriend?

  • Valis - 2011-03-10 17:41

    "Double burden"? What about the burden of him having a single-digit IQ? Sure, he can bat a bit, but he must be the dumbest bloke I've ever seen.

  • aditya - 2011-03-10 18:12

    smith will b pissing in his pants zaheer is coming to ball ha ha ha

  • Alan - 2011-03-10 19:46

    Why is Smith so unlikable?

      BigD - 2011-03-11 05:58

      I wish I knew. I am not a fan of old Biff either. But the Proteas are my team and have to put up with Biff.

  • Donovan Henry - 2011-03-11 08:02

    I cant believe how negative we are as a sporting nation. People sit and criticize as if they genuinely are capableof doing better. I think we should wake up and realise that if we support our players and teams they will feed off our positivity. Is it too much to ask that if only for our sport we drop our negativity and support our teams when they are doing well and heaven forbid when they are struggling??

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