Graeme Smith’s role in the Castle Lager Proteas’ ODI squad extends to more than his contributions with the bat and on the field, with the former ODI captain also sharing his vast knowledge behind the scenes. Smith was the leading run-scorer of the three-match Momentum ODI Series against New Zealand with 189 runs, and says the series was a good experience for the younger players to develop and grow in their roles, especially looking ahead to the future.
“I would have loved them to do well, it would have given them a lot of confidence,” Smith said of the younger players. “I’ve been playing a bit of a mentoring role behind the scenes, talking to them, talking cricket and situations, maybe the mistakes that they have made and where they can learn from them.
“I must be honest, the young guys were very keen to learn; they approached me all the time looking for information so that really made my life easier. I have a good relationship with them, a lot of the guys I’ve seen for a few years now, they have come in and out, it was nice to see them getting opportunities.”
Lonwabo Tsotsobe was the joint-leading wicket taker of the series alongside Ryan McLaren with eight wickets, but had the better average of the two. Colin Ingram also made good use of his opportunity, finishing with 133 runs, slotting in at the important No.3 role.
Smith, who captained the ODI squad from 2003 to 2011, says it was a disappointment to lose the series against the ninth-ranked Kiwis, especially after the Proteas squandered match-winning positions in the first two ODI’s in Paarl and Kimberley.
“The disappointing thing for me was that we should have won both the first two games and we didn’t,” Smith said. “As a team we need to take responsibility for that and improve, tonight (Friday) was a nice opportunity for us to get over the line.”
The last-ball win in Potchefstroom on Friday night will give the ODI squad vital momentum heading into the five-match series against Pakistan in March, which will see the return of AB de Villiers as captain, the injured Hashim Amla, Robin Peterson and the rested Morne Morkel.
“We needed this win to lift the confidence and to change the momentum for us as a squad,” he added. “We have an important series coming up against Pakistan and after that it’s the ICC Champions Trophy. The next few matches are very important for us as a squad, and winning this match will go a long way.”
Smith is approaching a significant milestone, and is set to become the first player in the history of the game to captain a side in 100 Test matches when he leads the Proteas in the first Sunfoil Test match against Pakistan on Friday.