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“Is he the greatest captain ever in Test match cricket? In my view he must be”
Former South Africa head coach Gary Kirsten has become the latest person to pay tribute to Graeme Smith, branding him as the “greatest captain ever”.
Kirsten’s comments come after Smith announced his retirement from Test cricket.
“Is he the greatest captain ever in Test match cricket? In my view he must be,” Kirsten told ESPNcricnfo. “I don’t think anyone had led as long. We know that. He has taken South Africa to great heights. The kind of success he has had, the kind of success he has taken South African cricket to, I would argue that he is the best captain that has ever lived.”
Kirsten also admitted that he was extremely impressed that Smith managed to average 48.25 with the bat while captaining South Africa at the same time.
“For Graeme to end up with an average above 48 and then to have the type of leadership success he did have is absolutely a massive achievement,” Kisten said. “You look at his record in the fourth innings and his ability to make important contributions. That gave the team a lot of confidence. It gives your team a lot of comfort to know that the captain is walking the talk.”
Kirsten also revealed that Smith always stood up for his players.
“Having played under him, which I really enjoyed even though he was a young captain at the time, I felt he was believable to me,” Kirsten said. “He had credibility in my eyes. Because I knew he would front up to difficult situations.
“By that stage he had learned a lot about leadership. We always had a good connection and we had an enormous amount of fun over the two-year period we were together leading the team. We were able to tweak a few things and take the performance to even greater levels. We both believed that South Africa could become the No. 1 team in the world.”
However, despite calling him a “strong leader”, legendary Australia skipper Ian Chappell believes that Smith was weak when it came to tactics.
“He was obviously the sort of character who his team-mates would follow, but tactically on the field, I think he was pretty limited and really, I think South Africa should’ve been looking for another captain quite a few years back, but certainly the leadership side of his captaincy was quite a strong point,” Chappell told ESPNcricinfo.
Chappell added that Smith had the tendency to be very laid back.
“South Africa’s style of play is designed to beat all the teams below them in standard and most of the teams that are level with them in standard, but it will never beat a team that is either absolutely level with them in ability or slightly better,” he said. “They wait for teams to make mistakes. Now, really good teams don’t make mistakes. You got to provoke that. (Alastair) Cook and Smith tend to sit back. They wait for the opposition to stop the run flow and wait for the mistakes. As I said, that won’t beat the really good teams, that way of playing cricket.”