How South Africa can benefit if Graeme Smith is appointed as their director of cricket
Graeme Smith is in the race to become the first-ever director of cricket for South Africa. If things go in favor of Smith, who is a top contender for the post, then it will signal the beginning of a fresh chapter in South African cricket.
Also in the fray are Hussein Manack, who was a national selector in the past, and Corrie van Zyl, who had served as the interim director.
The Proteas have always been a formidable force in world cricket since returning to international cricket in 1991. But of late, the South African team has cut a sorry figure.
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A string of poor performances in the recent past
Ever since champion cricketers like AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn among others have retired, the Proteas have found the going tough. They were knocked out of the 2019 ICC World Cup in the group stage itself, looking like a pale shadow of their former selves.
The inexperienced South African team led by Faf du Plessis got last month decimated on Indian soil by Virat Kohli's men. Even though the Indians are currently the top-ranked Test team in the world, the fact that the Proteas failed to put up any resistance is a concerning sign.
Moreover, not many world-class cricketers are coming up the ranks in South Africa. Players like Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram are talented, but they are yet to fulfill their true potential to be called modern-day giants of the game.
A rich legacy to be emulated
Not long ago South Africa had a reputation of producing quite a few world-class cricketers. Some of them even achieved legendary status, and Smith himself is one of them. He is the most successful captain that the Proteas have ever produced.
Smith was barely 22 years old when he took over the reins of the South African team, which boasted of some big names at that time. He was also relatively inexperienced at the international level to assume such a huge responsibility; he had played only 30-odd matches at the highest level.
But Smith convinced the team management that he had it in him to lead the team at that crucial phase, as the successor of Shaun Pollock. And the records speak for themselves.
Smith always led from the front
The burly left-hander led the Proteas in a record 100 Tests, out of which 53 ended in victory. He also guided his country to 92 wins in 149 ODIs.
Smith's ability to lead from the front when the chips were down was what defined his leadership. Who can forget the memorable episode when he came out to bat with a fractured hand against Australia in the 2009 Test?
Smith earned the respect of his teammates, and guided them to the pinnacle of success as South Africa became the No. 1 Test team in the ICC rankings. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest captains of all time, and not without reason.
Creation of the director post is a welcome step
Today, South African cricket is going through a tough time. Apart from a reported financial crisis that is staring at CSA, there are other issues like Proteas cricketers being lured away by Kolpak deals. Above all, the performance of the team has been on a downward spiral.
The fact that the CSA has decided to appoint a director of cricket is in itself a welcome step. The post was created after the poor showing by the Proteas in the 2019 ICC World Cup.
If a proven leader like Smith gets appointed to the post, then things can only get better for the Proteas. The appointment is most likely to be made within this month, and the well-wishers of South African cricket would be hoping that Smith gets the nod.