Graeme Smith is sitting somewhere in a small hotel in Kimberley with a grin as broad as that of a Cheshire cat. It is never nice to delight in other people’s misfortune, but AB de Villiers’s current captaincy woes must certainly give Smith some sort of self-satisfaction.
It would have nothing to do with De Villiers himself, but instead with the fickle attitude of South Africa’s cricket public towards him. For years, Smith has had to endure all sorts of criticism levelled at him, sometimes justified and on other occasions it was simply off-side. He was always the first point of attack, regardless of whether he had scored 141 in a losing cause.
Throughout this, though, Smith has never quite looked as flustered as De Villiers was while not keeping his eye on the clock in Paarl last Saturday. It cost him a suspension for two games and the entire team their match fees.
What we are witnessing is a small dose of “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone”. And this is only limited-overs cricket. Can you imagine the void Smith is going to leave when he finally quits the Test captaincy too? I mean, he is preparing to lead in his 100th Test next month when Pakistan come out to play at the Wanderers. That’s 100 Test matches ... let me say it again if it did not resonate with you the first time ... 100 Test matches!
So, if De Villiers is not the man to lead South Africa, and Hashim Amla does not want it, who should then be the next captain of the Proteas? Considering Johan Botha was basically jettisoned to Australia to build a new future for himself, the immediate answer lies at the feet of the guy who is actually now in charge of the Proteas limited-overs teams.
That guy is, of course, Francois du Plessis, better known as just “Faf”.
Faf’s mate, AB, wants to lead, but he simply has too much on his plate. If he wants to keep in the Test side, like he says he does, something has got to give. And it is not giving up the glovework in the ODI and T20 sides, but instead it has to be the leadership.
AB de Villiers, the wicket-keeper/batsman, simply adds too much balance to both the Test and limited-overs sides not to be utilised in this manner, especially when the supreme all-round skills of Jacques Kallis are not part of the equation. South Africa’s one-day side is in its embryonic stages, and has no place for young gloveman Quinton de Kock. The Highveld Lions rookie is a special talent, but he has no business being close to the ODI outfit right now, especially if he is not going to be selected to bat in the top three.
South Africa lacked the extra batsman on Saturday in Paarl, and had De Villiers been behind the stumps and not De Kock, there would have been a place for Farhaan Behardien to walk in at No 6.
All-rounder Ryan McLaren tried his best with a gritty 33 at No 7, but like the “X-factor” of the Test side is their seven specialist batsmen, so too it should be in the ODI XI.
Installing Du Plessis as the permanent captain of both the T20 and ODI sides should not be seen as two wrongs making a right. Instead, it is simply the right thing to do at the right time. Du Plessis has played enough international cricket now to be comfortable in his environment. He has also put in performances that has earned the respect of his peers – a valuable asset to be successful at this level. If Australia can go the way of George Bailey, South Africa are certainly not faffing around with Du Plessis.
Tweet of the week
@GraemeSmith49: What do the ICC do with our 100% match fees they took for slow over rate,really hope it goes to a good charity!
Who to follow
@fudgie11: Find out what the latest Proteas debutant, Farhaan Behardien, gets up to.