South African Cricket has been primarily associated with a very few number of players, which includes the likes of Gary Kirsten, Alan Donald, Hasne Cronje, Jacques Kallis, Hershelle Gibbs and a few more. But amidst all these players, the achievement of Graeme Smith as a player and captain as been hugely overlooked. After his shocking retirement from international cricket, Graeme Smith has been a surprise name in a long list of retirements in the past two years. But nevertheless, irrespective of his reason for this retirement at a relatively early age, he will go down as one of the greats of the game.
Playing 117 tests is a great achievement in itself. But captaining the team in 108 of those, is an out of the world stat. And in what manner he has achieved that! Given the captaincy at a young age of 22, he showed the trait of leading from the front in his very first series as a test captain, as he scored two consecutive double centuries, a feat repeated for the first time since the Don achieved it nearly 70 years ago. That’s pure leadership skills. This was just the start of things to come from a great captain. His 90 in the legendary chase of 434 is a contribution that has been overlooked, but not forgotten. Moreover, his management of team resources, whether is it to rotate the bowlers or is it to place tactical fields, he has been spot on more often than not.
He has scored the second most number of runs at the opening position, just behind the great Sunil Gavaskar. Amassing 9257 runs at a near-50 average at opening position is incredible. Also, he holds the record of scoring the most number of runs in the 4th innings, which shows up his true determined character as a match saving/winning player. Three of the most recognised knocks include his match saving 154 against England in Edgbaston, a 108 in a record 414 chase against Australia in Perth, and one of his most remembered knocks, 3 versus Australia batting one handed while saving a match, inspite of already bagging the series.
His ODI records have been severely overlooked, but he has amassed over 6700 runs at a healthy average of 37.
As a cricketer, he is a complete package. A legendary captain, A great slip fielder, A opening batsman in the league of Mathew Hayden and Sunil Gavaskar. He might not be in the same league of Sachins and Pontings as far as batting records are considered, he will be forever be remembered as one of the greatest captains of the game, and a true Protean. His contribution towards the ascending of South African cricket will never be forgotten.
Graeme Smith, you will be missed.