Cape Town – South Africa’s Test captain Graeme Smith has a busy summer ahead of him with India already in the country, and Australia arriving later in the summer after they have completed their Ashes battles Down Under. Smith, though, took some time out to chat to us about the important things in his life at this stage, and of course, a little bit of cricket ...
1 How has marriage and fatherhood changed Graeme Craig Smith?
I think, from being a young single man that travelled all around the world, living out of a suitcase, going from one cricket field to another, I have a greater perspective on life now. Perhaps I’m not as single-minded as I was before, and that has certainly helped me see the bigger picture. I’ve been blessed with a wife, and two kids (girl and boy), so my priorities have changed and I have different things to consider now. It doesn’t mean I want to win any less when I am playing for the Proteas, but I now have a support system through the good and bad times.
2 The early years of your Proteas leadership reign had its fair share of ups and downs. Have those nadir experiences given you a greater appreciation of the Test team’s ascent to No 1 in the world?
I am only 32, although sometimes I do feel a lot older having led the Proteas since 23 years of age. I’ve been involved in South African cricket for over a decade, and seen and been through a lot, but the most satisfying aspect for me has been to be a part of the development of world-class players like AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, and Hashim Amla. The fact that they started their careers under my leadership gave me the opportunity to watch them blossom and mature which has been fantastic. To see how the team has evolved from those leaner times has definitely made the success that we now celebrate a little bit sweeter.
3 Which cricketer would you most like to be compared to when you eventually retire?
I would hope that what I have achieved within South African cricket, within world cricket, that my record would speak for itself. What’s been important to me is the continued cultural development of the team. That has been a personal mission, to create a culture within the Proteas team that we, and generations still to come, can be proud of. The great Madiba’s passing recently has opened my eyes, in terms of what he has done for us as a country and left behind for us to continue with. The fact of leaving a legacy has dawned upon me even more. I hope to use each and every opportunity I still have left with the Proteas to take forward the culture we have created with the South African cricket team.
4 Quinton de Kock has been a revelation within the Proteas ODI team. How do you view his success and will it push you into one-day retirement, or do you believe you can still contribute in limited-overs cricket?
It has been great to see Quinton take to international cricket in the way he has. Sometimes it takes young players a while to settle in at international level, regardless of the talent they possess, but Quinny has really hit his stride quickly. I was injured for six months prior to the United Arab Emirates tour, hadn’t played any competitive cricket due to my ankle operation, so I just want go out there and get myself into a good place and enjoy my cricket.
5 Physically, you look arguably in the best shape of your career. Was the 2015 World Cup your motivation while hitting the treadmill?
I made a big decision after my surgery during the winter that I wanted to give myself the best opportunity of enjoying the years I had left in the game. How many they are ... that is not something I am thinking about. I have done some real hard work with my fitness trainer because I am motivated more than ever to produce big plays for South Africa. I scored 234 in my last Test innings, so it’s all about working to get to that happy place.
6 Sunfoil chief executive Abdul Razak Moosa recently offered the Proteas R1million should the Test team complete a clean sweep over India and Australia this summer. How do you feel about this?
Really? I didn’t even know that. How much you say? R1million ... That’s impressive! Seriously though, as the Proteas we are always aiming to win every game we play for our country, so I don’t think the extra incentive will change the way we approach the Tests. For me, the major positive is the fact that Sunfoil and other corporates are excited again to invest in South African cricket. That is the huge motivating factor to know that corporates are willing to place their faith and money in our game.
7 There is a strong development component to your Momentum Sixes competition being held this weekend with the player auction proceeds going towards the Sporting Chance Development Foundation. Why have you got involved in this project?
It’s been at the back our minds for a while, so Mark (Boucher), Justin (Kemp) and I got together after I did some stuff with Sporting Chance during my 100th Test celebrations in Khayelitsha. I am a big fan of growing leaders in our communities, so over 200 kids will be coming along and hopefully we can raise enough money to put some of them through school and the chance of a better life.
DID YOU KNOW?
* Requires 11 runs to reach 7 000 ODI runs
* Is three games shy of 200 ODI appearances
* Has scored 10 ODI centuries, sixth on SA’s all-time list
* Has scored an ODI century against every Test-playing country, except Pakistan