Smith feels as if his side have created an unbreakable bond between each other
South Africa captain Graeme Smith believes that his team have all become one big happy family after having a successful Test series against juggernauts England and Australia, where they accomplished their ultimate goal of establishing the country as the number one Test team in international cricket.
However, the Proteas have also experienced some rather difficult times, just like any family would, throughout both those series, perhaps more so in Australia than in England, and Smith noted that it was times like this that the true character of a team was revealed.
“The biggest thing is an understanding of what needs to be done and then going and doing it,” Smith said.
After a majority of cricket pundits and former players claimed that Australia had taken the psychological advantage in the first two Tests of the series, Smith called on his men to fight back and show the cricketing world why they truly deserve to be the number one Test side.
Smith’s talk rejuvenated his men and they responded in the best way possible, by handing Australia a 309 run loss during the final Test in Perth.
The Proteas continued their dominant streak against New Zealand and tore them apart in the Test series and Smith noted that like the Black Caps, South Africa were once considered to be the “chokers” and underachievers of international cricket, but through hard work and a never-give-up attitude, they bounced back with a vengeance and have now established themselves as the team to beat in the longer format.
While those years were tough on all the players, Smith stated that their “resilience” and ability to withstand all the pressure and criticism helped them become who they are today.
“There is resilience in the squad,” Smith said. “We’ve been under big pressure. We’ve fought back from tough positions and we’ve worked our backsides off to get back into games. Then, when we’ve had that opportunity, we’ve driven a bus through the door.”
South Africa can look back on their series against England and Australia with pride, but will know that there were a lot of close shaves along the way, whether it be during the second Test against England in Headingley where they were deflated by England batsman Kevin Pietersen’s century or almost defeated by wicketkeeper Matt Prior’s late charge in the final Test at Lord’s.
The second Test against Australia in Adelaide was also a close call as South African batsman Faf du Plessis had to come to the team’s rescue by batting them to a draw, while the third Test in Perth completely belonged to Hashim Amla and pace bowler Dale Steyn.
All of these close situations put together with the bright moments the Proteas experienced during both series have enhanced their character and elevated their “confidence” to new heights.
“There is a good degree of confidence within the squad, which enables you to play that way going forward,” Smith added. “If guys have got good performances behind them and come off with some good wins … it’s a lot easier to play that way when you haven’t got that kind of confidence.”
At the conclusion of their Test series against New Zealand, Smith pointed out that even he knew the areas in which the Black Caps had to improve on.
“They are struggling to find who fits in where and how can perform in certain role,” Smith said. “It’s more than who bats at No. 4, it’s about behind the scenes and the environment. They are growing there.”
As of right now, South Africa have an almost picture perfect team, where the bowling attack is considered to be the ‘best in the world’ and their batting line-up is full of masterclass strokemakers.
“It’s just about winning really, that is what you are defined by in modern-day sport,” Smith said. “If you play games like this and you are dominant and you take the game forward, it’s very nice.”
Smith noted that when South Africa bowled New Zealand out for 45 in their first innings at the Newlands stadium in Cape Town, he could hardly believe what he was witnessing.
“I couldn’t quite believe we were in that situation,” he said. “We bowled superbly in our new spells. We didn’t start sluggish and we asked questions early on.”
Smith was also impressed at the way his batsmen responded after New Zealand had been bowled out for their third lowest total in Test cricket history.
“After bowling them out for 45, the attitude we had as a batting unit was so important,” Smith said. “It would be easy to go out there and think: ‘What’s happening out here?’
“It was great to see Alviro push through those little sessions where he has found it tough in the past, because his potential is huge.”
However, instead of Petersen taking the credit for his century during that match, Smith believes it was due to an all-round team effort that South Africa had managed the win the match and the series as well.
“There’s honesty in the group,” Smith added. “I see us as mature team. We’ve grown up now.”