Smith is set to become the new captain of Surrey
Former England captain and current executive director at Surrey Alec Stewart played an instrumental role in convincing South Africa captain Graeme Smith to sign three-year deal with the county side.
Stewart believes that Smith’s three-year deal is the “biggest signing in county cricket since Shane Warne”.
The county’s interest in Smith was first reported by ESPNcricinfo in September after the tragic death of Tom Maynard, the departure of former captain Rory Hamilton-Brown and Mark Ramprakash’s retirement.
Speaking exclusively to BBC Sport, Stewart said: “After everything that went on at Surrey last season, it became very evident that we needed a new leader to take the club forward, Smith has been one of cricket’s outstanding players and captains for a number of years. I have known Graeme since I played against him in my last Test series for England in 2003. It was the first time he had captained South Africa in England. He scored back-to-back double hundreds, and I said at the time that he was the most impressive 22-year-old I had come across. From that day I have kept an eye out for Graeme and caught up with him whenever our paths have crossed, so I took it upon myself to broach the subject of a move to Surrey while he was over here to captain in the summer.”
Stewart described Smith as a “hugely impressive individual” after he led South Africa to the world number one Test team ranking by beating England 2-0 at home over the summer.
Stewart revealed that he had initially spoken to Smith about joining the county during South Africa’s first Test against England at The Oval in July and gave the Proteas captain more details before the third Test at Lord’s.
“I talked Graeme through our proposal, gave him my take on where Surrey are now and where we need to be, I told him he could and would make a difference. It soon became clear that Graeme was interested in what we had to offer,” Stewart added.
Smith, upon being interested in what Stewart had told him, agreed to meet with Surrey’s team director Chris Adams near his wife’s home town of Cork.
“It was clear to everyone that there was a perfect fit, we were absolutely delighted that Graeme shared our desire for this to be a long-term deal because we were not looking for just a short-term fix. We were looking for a true leader to bring stability and success to the club and I know we now have the right man to lead the team out on the field. For his part, Graeme wants to stamp his mark on the squad and leave a successful legacy. I am quietly confident that in three years’ time we will be looking back on the impact he has had and the huge part he will have played in bringing success back to The Oval,” Stewart said.