Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith has revealed that he retired from international cricket since “time slowly crept up” on him.
Smith, who started captaining South Africa at the age of 22, also admitted that Gary Kirsten’s decision to resign as head coach, Jacques Kallis’ retirement and spending more time with family all contributed to his decision to call it quits.
“The thought had been in my mind for a period of time. There had been things happening around that made me start to consider it – family, Gary Kirsten was coach and then he moved aside, Jacques Kallis retired from the format, I had been playing for 12 years,” Smith told Ruda Landman in an exclusive interview. “I think ideally, I would have loved to have gone to another World Cup and played against England here, end of next year.
“But I think time slowly crept up on me and it was becoming more and more prominent in my head. And various things, my team, family, were probably edging me closer to that. And then my daughter got injured and it became a real thought. To be honest, I caught a lot of people by surprise, including my parents. I don’t think my dad’s dealt with it yet. From my perspective, I sit here today very relaxed with it, very comfortable with the decision I made.”
Smith also conceded that he went through a very tough period when his daughter suffered a horrific injury.
“When I think about it, it was a really stressful time in my life,” he recalled. “She was burnt with hot water down her face, arm and leg. When she got hurt, we were in the middle of a massive series against Australia.
“I was taking her to the hospital on the morning of the game, having the procedure and then having to leave to go to play the Test match. I’d walk in with her, she’d be gassed and put out, then I’d lay her down on the bed, walk out, wait for her to recover and then go to the ground to play against Australia. It was a very stressful time and probably played a big role in why I retired.”
Smith is enjoying having more time on his hands now. However, he recently decided not to complete his three-year deal with Surrey after undergoing knee surgery.
“I miss my team-mates, I miss that environment,” he said. “I really loved that part of sport – being out there, playing in tough parts of the world, winning and then sharing in the celebration, working hard. I miss that side of things actually.
“But I am loving the more relaxed nature. I feel like my heart can breathe again. I feel like there is a lot more space in my life. Initially, it was very daunting. I had been receiving one pay cheque for 12-13 years and that was no longer there. Luckily, I had looked after money reasonably well. It gave me space to take time and start to consider what is next for myself.”
Smith added that he was more interested in the business side of sports rather than a coaching job.
“I am very interested in the business of sport, and there’s obviously the cricket side of it,” he said. “There are offers to play in the Big Bash League in Australia, the local domestic competitions.
“I am attracted to anything that involves cricket. It’s a sport that has given me so much pleasure, so much learning over the years. I think for me, the travelling aspect of being a coach is something that I need some time away from. Since I have been 21, I have been travelling the world, sometimes 250 days a year. I think the things that interest me more may be the business of sport, may be getting involved in aspects that are around the team, and around administration and also business.”