Adieu Graeme Smith: Thanks for the memories, Biff!

South Africa's captain Graeme Smith salutes the crowd after playing his last international Test on Day 4 of the third Test match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands on March 3, 2014 in Capetown. AFP PHOTO / Luigi Bennett        (Photo credit should read Luigi Bennett/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith salutes the crowd after playing his last international Test

Arguably, Test cricket’s greatest captain ever has called it a day, and South Africa have been dealt a second huge blow, after the retirement of Jacques Kallis, with Graeme Smtih announcing that this series against Australia would be his last. A career that started against Australia in 2002, will end 12 years later, against the same opposition, at the very ground it began.

Smith had been short of runs recently, and that might have well prompted this decision, but South Africa will now have a huge gap to fill, both at the helm, and at the top of the batting order. Smith averaged nearly 50 with the bat, and produced some of the most important innings in South Africa’s rise to being the number one Test side in the world.

Smith took South Africa to another level as captain. He made them the number one Test side in the World, and has kept them there for 19 months now. He has been South Africa’s talisman, South Africa’s leader. He has batted in the most challenging of conditions and has come through it unscathed. But, what Mitchell Johnson has done to him in this series has scarred him, and Smith has decided that he has had enough.

In March 2003, at the age of 22, Smith was appointed captain, replacing Shaun Pollock, after a disastrous World Cup campaign. He made an immediate impact, scoring back to back double centuries, in his first big captaincy assignment in England. Smith scored century after century after that, as South Africa were becoming a force to reckon with.

In 2005, less than 3 years after being named South Africa Captain, Smith was named leader of the World XI in the ICC Super Series. An honour, he called it.

Smith set about repairing South Africa’s reputation as perennial chokers on the big stage. But, if there is one regret he can have as captain, it is that he couldn’t do that. Be it the World Cup in 2007 and 2011, or the T20 World Cups of 2007. 2008 and 2010, South Africa were largely dominant in the initial stages before faltering in knockout rounds.

As a batsman too, Smith can have no regrets. He was never the prettiest batsmen to watch, but boy, was he effective! 9257 runs in a stellar career is ample proof that Smith will go down as one of the giants of Test cricket.

Yet again, Smith will go out in ungainly fashion. South Africa are in dire straights against Australia in the last Test of the series, and a proud unbeaten run of 14 series is looking increasingly threatened by the minute, but Smith can leave with his head held high.

An era that was gradually ending in South African cricket with the retirements of Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis has now well and truly come to an end with Smith’s retirement. After all, it was the Graeme Smith era.

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