While twitter may have been awash with jokes about Graeme Smith’s “hat-trick”, the South African team’s reaction to Andrew Strauss’ retirement from all cricket was more sober.
This time there wasn’t any whooping and hollering among the younger South African players as was the case four years ago when Michael Vaughan made a teary-eyed speech announcing his resignation after the Test series had been lost at Edgbaston. Rather, the difficulty of leadership and the toughness needed to stay in the game as long as Strauss did, was viewed with great respect by the South African players.
A source close to the squad said Strauss’ resignation as England captain and his retirement on Wednesday went down with little reaction in the South African squad.
Most players had the day off, which meant visits to the shops or just a day spent watching movies.
Strauss, despite an infamous run-in with Smith during the Champions Trophy in Centurion three years ago, when he denied the South African captain the use of a runner at a crucial stage of the innings, was held in high regard by the South African players. There was a great deal of respect for Strauss based on his success as captain, especially regarding his side’s successful tour to Australia in 2010/11 when they emphatically retained the Ashes.
The prospect of Smith sending another England captain into retirement had been one of the talking points before the Test series. Before Vaughan in 2008, Smith, then still very new to being South African captain, watched as Nasser Hussain resigned as England skipper in 2003.
Smith said before the first Test at The Oval that it had just been a matter of timing regarding the retirements of Strauss’ predecessors.
“As a team we just came along at the right time and were able to perform well,” Smith said. “I don’t take any pride in seeing an England captain in tears resigning. They are two guys I have a lot of respect for and similarly Andrew has earned that respect currently as well. I’m focused on South Africa and how we can perform to our best. Those things that happened with Michael and Nasser have just been about us being here at the right time.”
Strauss was also asked before the first Test about the possibility of being the next England captain to be “slayed” by Smith, and he offered a typically, phlegmatic response. “I don’t think he sees himself as a ‘captain’s slayer’, I’m sure he’s more focused on making sure South Africa play good cricket and that’s what I’ll be doing as well.” – The Star