Smith thought Pietersen was in excellent form before he retired
South Africa captain Graeme Smith believes that England batsman Kevin Pietersen will regret his decision to retire from limited overs cricket, stating that it will leave “a big hole in his life”.
Pietersen decided to retire from limited overs cricket since he only wanted to play in Twenty20 Internationals, but according to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), all players must be available to play in both ODIs and Twenty2o Internationals, or they will not be selected to be in the squad for either format.
Speaking exclusively to Wisden EXTRA, Smith said: “It’s impossible to know what you’re giving up, and how hard it will hit you, until it’s gone, one-day cricket has been a big part of his life for a very long time and, right now, he thinks he can just walk away from it. Maybe he can. But I think he’ll quickly find there’s a big hole in his life which isn’t as easy to cope with as he may think.”
Pietersen explained that he may consider making a return to limited overs cricket if the ECB did something to tone down the already hectic England season.
However, the ECB are standing their ground, stating that players cannot “pick and choose” which international matches they want to play in.
Smith noted that Pietersen had just found his form and was looking at his very best in ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals, so it was a huge shock to him when Pietersen decided to retire.
“I don’t have any inside information at all, so I’m just looking from the outside, but if there’s any truth that his decision was partly based on the disagreements he had with the ECB and the way they treated him, then I believe he’ll find it even harder to come to terms with the way his one-day career has ended. He just seemed to be back to his aggressive, attacking best, too. Very strange that he should give it away,” Smith said.
After the International Cricket Council (ICC) 50-over Cricket World Cup in 2011, Smith decided to stand down as South Africa’s ODI captain, but he mentioned that he had no plans to follow in Pietersen’s footsteps and quit the limited overs format any time soon.
“He’s just turned 32, only a bit older than me, but I reckon my best ODI form is ahead of me, not behind me. I’m very keen to play limited-overs cricket and I’m still very ambitious,” Smith added.
Smith’s last two tours of England as captain of South Africa have seen the resignation of two England captains in Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, however Smith does not believe this will be the case for Andrew Strauss.
“I could sense the pressure building on Strauss before the West Indies tour (of England) and I couldn’t help putting two and two together, what if they had a bad series against the Windies and he didn’t score many runs? But I’m pretty sure those two hundreds have made him safe now. He (Strauss) is obviously a very strong personality with that quiet determination that sees him getting things done and achieving things with the minimum of fuss. He seems to keep an iron fist in a velvet glove,” Smith said.
South Africa, who were the last side to defeat England on home soil 2-1 four years ago, will take over England to become the number one Test team on the ICC rankings if they defeat them in the three Test series, which they currently lead 1-0 with one final Test to go.
“England are more disciplined, smarter and better prepared than four years ago, and all the players who are still around from the last series have got better, they are a very, very good team at home and deserve to be ranked No 1,” Smith said.
However, Smith also noted that South Africa are a different team from before and should not be taken lightly, since they currently have the lead in the series.
“But we have also got better and we’re also pretty useful in English conditions. They have home advantage and they’re ranked ahead of us, but I’m not going to compete for underdog status! If some people want to make us favourites then I’ll take that as a compliment, not reject it,” Smith added.