Cape Town - Graeme Smith believes Aiden Markram should not have been given the Proteas captaincy in the recent ODIs at home against India and hopes the batsman's confidence has not suffered as a result of the big series defeat.
The 23-year-old Markram played just one ODI before the India series and was asked to lead the side after captain Faf du Plessis injured his finger after the first game of the six-match series.
The Proteas went on to suffer a five-one humiliation with Markram contributing just 118 runs in his five innings as skipper.
Smith, who himself was appointed captain of the Proteas as a 22-year-old in 2003, feels Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers or JP Duminy could have been handed the leadership role so Markram could develop as a batsman.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Smith said: "I don't think it was the right decision. Everyone has been talking about his leadership.
"Probably coming from me that doesn't make sense because I got given the job at a very young age. I think it was an interim thing, not a full-time thing.
I would have rather have had him find his place, find his feet within the one-day set-up, try and get runs behind him. South Africa need players to step up and perform.
"I think in the short term, with AB coming in after three games he could have stepped in, and they could have looked at Duminy or Amla in the first couple and allowed someone like Markram just to settle.
"One, he was batting out of position at No. 4 at the start of the series, something he had to come to terms with, and then you've piled him under pressure not only on his own game but also as a captain.
"He would have gained a lot experience-wise but let's just hope his confidence hasn't taken a dent."
Smith also said Markram was let down by the performances of the senior batsmen in the team.
Amla, Duminy and David Miller all failed to step up as the Proteas missed Du Plessis, De Villiers (for the first three games) and Quinton de Kock through injuries.
Smith continued: "What was disappointing for me was that I don't think the other senior players stepped up around him - the Amlas, Duminys, Millers, those guys just never got it going from a performance perspective, an intensity perspective.
"They needed to get behind and lead the way almost."