4 March 2014
South Africa test cricket captain Graeme Smith on Monday announced that the third test against Australia, currently being played at Newlands in Cape Town, will be the last game of his 347-match international career.
“This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life,” Smith said. “It’s a decision that I have been considering since my ankle surgery in April last year. I have a young family to consider, and I felt that retiring at Newlands would be the best way to end it because I have called this place home since I was 18 years old.”
Smith is twelfth on the all-time list of run scorers in test cricket, and the leading opener, with over 9 000 runs to his name.
He also captained South Africa more than 100 times in tests, making him the only captain in test history to lead his country in over 100 test matches.
Now 33, Smith became captain of the Proteas at just 21 years of age when he succeeded Shaun Pollock, following the 2003 ICC World Cup. He first led South Africa on a tour of England, scoring successive double-hundreds in the first two tests of the series.
Giving of his best
“I have always been someone who has left everything out there on the field for my team and for my country,” Smith said. “I’m extremely honoured and proud to have had the privilege to lead so many wonderful players and to have been a part of building the Proteas culture to what it is today. It is a culture that every player can be, and is, immensely proud of.
“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the support from my parents and brother, my wife and children, my friends, my fans and to Cricket South Africa,” Smith said. “I thank and honour the players who I have played with and those who have supported me and helped me to be the person and captain I am today.
“I have been fortunate to have had many highs, amongst them leading and being part of the best test team in the world. I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I bid my career a fond yet sad farewell.”
Cricket South Africa (CSA) reacted with surprise to Smith’s decision, but CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat was full of praise for the contribution made by Smith.
“Although Graeme’s decision to retire from all forms of international cricket comes as a surprise to all of us, we must respect him for deciding to call time,” Lorgat said. “Knowing him as well as I do, having been instrumental as a selector in appointing him as a young captain, he would not have taken this decision lightly or without a great deal of thought.
“He has captained the Proteas for more than a decade, and he will draw a lot more satisfaction from the fact that he leaves our test team at the top of the world and in such good health, rather than from all the personal records he has achieved as the longest-serving captain the game has ever seen in the demanding test format. He also led South Africa to the World Cup semi-final in 2007.”
Match winning performances
Recalling some of Smith’s most memorable moments, Lorgat added: “I would like us to remember Graeme for his nerves of steel and his match-winning performances that were synonymous with some of the most remarkable fourth-innings victory chases of all time. These included setting up the 414 runs chase against Australia at Perth and his series-clinching innings at Edgbaston in 2008, not to mention the unbeaten century the last time he faced Australia at Sahara Park Newlands in 2011.
“His role in setting up the famous 438 win over Australia in 2006 was also a performance never to be forgotten,” Lorgat added. He can leave the game with pride, and he thoroughly deserves the gratitude of our nation for leading the Proteas with much distinction.
“From a personal point of view, I am thrilled that I was part of the panel that appointed him captain in 2003 when his first major assignment was a tough tour to England and I feel privileged to see him now move on to the next stage of his career. He has been a mighty warrior, a leader of men and an exceptional part of our international cricket.”
‘A new era’
Looking ahead, Lorgat said: “Following the recent retirement of Jacques Kallis from test cricket, there is no doubt that we are now ready to move into a new era and it is our job to build on the solid foundations that these great players leave behind.”
SAinfo reporter and Cricket South Africa