Smith was never truly appreciated

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iol spt mar6 Graeme Smith1 Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images Stuart Hess says Graeme Smith is a true great of the game who has never been appreciated in his own country. Photo by Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images

I could never understand why there was such a large and vocal hate club attached to Graeme Smith. I suppose it’s because we’re just such a strange country; offer up criticism of Smith, and you can get a person to buy you a beer, criticise Hansie and it’s ‘do you want to step outside?’

Smith’s cricketing achievements are without parallel in the history of the sport in this country.

His Test record against England alone – seven centuries, an average of 56.97 (in England it’s 67.75) – should ensure he gets a pass, never mind being the victorious captain in two Test series in both England and Australia.

Of course the lack of a World Cup will haunt him – especially in 2011, when he had a bowling unit that was the best in the world.

It will be held up by large sections of the South African public as symbolic of his shortcomings as a captain, which is pretty stupid.

Did he make mistakes over the course of more than a decade in the job as South African captain? Of course. But show me a 22-, 23- or 24-year-old who didn’t.

Show me a 31-year-old who hasn’t erred, or a 51-year-old.

We all make errors, we all say and do stupid things, but unlike Smith many don’t say or do those stupid things, in the public spotlight, while trying to find themselves as people and trying to build a national cricket side – a team of which everyone can be proud of in a pretty complex society like South Africa, against a backdrop of petty political interference from an administrative body that at times has been inept and corrupt and rarely stable.

Smith deserves to be given a little slack – but I somehow doubt that will happen.

Too many South Africans have grown fond of nit-picking any mistake or perceived slight – they wanted him out of the South African team, so he retires and suddenly it’s all about how selfish the timing of the retirement was.

Smith is a contented man now, and he won’t feature in the spotlight as much as he has over the past 12 years.

Cricket is no longer as important to him.

Sure, he has crucial work to do for Surrey County Cricket Club, who have signed him to a three-year contract in the hope of tapping into the leadership skills that made him South Africa’s finest captain.

And therein lies the rub for South Africans and particularly those who have insulted Smith; outside of this country he’s always been more appreciated and respected. Perhaps it’s time everyone took a second to consider what he has achieved for South African cricket rather than what he didn’t. - The Star

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