Seldom has a cricket team divided opinion as much as the South African national side. Bustling with talent and possessing an arsenal worthy of beating the best, the team has still not been able to reach the potential it has always promised to achieve.
The ramifications of the apartheid rule in the politically influenced South Africa were huge on the game in the country. In 1970, the ICC decided to ban the side from international cricket owing to their policy of fielding just white players and competing against just white teams.
Since their comeback in 1991, the side has blown hot and cold, but has never managed to go the whole distance in any major ICC tournament, especially after the turn of this millennium.
It has been 25 years since South Africa made a comeback to the international scene. Here are the eleven best players for South Africa since 1991.
Note: The team has not been made with any particular format in mind. It is the list of South Africa’s eleven best players since being re-admitted.
Graeme Smith (Captain)
Not the most elegant of left-handers to have graced the game, Graeme Smith was more power than poise. But then, he was not just another South Africa’s opener in the 2000s. Smith was the face of South Africa’s renaissance after the match-fixing saga threatened to derail their progress as a resurging side after their readmission in 1992.
Having been chosen to captain the side at the age of 22, Smith’s headstrong approach and canny changes laid the platform for the team to become the first to reach the top of the rankings in all three formats.
As a batsman, Smith was rock-solid at the top, relying on orthodox ways to get his runs, even in the shorter formats. He had the ability to sniff out gaps and use the pace of the fast bowlers to collect boundaries in the powerplay overs.