The Honourable Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Fikile Mbalula gave praise to Proteas captain, Graeme Smith ahead of the first Sunfoil Test match against Pakistan starting at Bidvest Wanderers on Friday, an occasion which will see him achieve his 100th cap as captain. The Minister, who attended the pre-match press conference in Sandton on Thursday lauded Smith for his “courage” over the years, and the inspirational role he plays for the South African public.
“It’s a great day and special occasion for Graeme the captain of our national side for the exceptional display of talent and sense of duty” he said. “ His patriotism is in a league of its own, as young as he is, he has come of age to be what he is today.
“We wish him good luck for future endeavours and for everything that he has achieved, may it inspire every generation of young South Africans to do better. South Africans are proud of what he has achieved. He will remember the lows and ups during his career, but he never gave up, I hope that will inspire every sports loving person in the country.”
Proteas coach, Gary Kirsten led the tributes from the team management, with the former opening batsmen having played under Smith in the final lap of his career and now working closely with him in his head coach role.
“When he came into the team I saw that he had leadership potential,” Kirsten said. “ He relished the idea of being captain of South Africa, when a lot of people didn’t because of the burden the job comes with. I played 14 Tests under him and even though he was young, I felt he had a lot to offer but that was obviously going to take time, which is sometimes the case with leadership.
“For me, as a former opening batsman, his role has been underpinned by his success as a batsman, to average close to fifty and to score 26 Test hundreds is an unbelievable achievement, we often forget the role he plays with the bat upfront.
Kirsten played a big role in persuading Smith to carry on with the Test captaincy after the disappointing ICC World Cup in 2011.
“After the World Cup scarring he wasn’t sure about carrying on with the Test captaincy but I asked him to continue because I felt that he had a lot of value to add to a Test side that was moving to greater heights. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him, his experience shines out in his knowledge of the game and his tactical awareness, he has great presence as a leader and all the players respect that.”
Proteas Team Manager, Dr Mohammed Moosajee sat next to Smith on the flight to Bangladesh on his first tour as captain in 2003, and recalls a nervous but excited 22 year-old.
“ I was travelling with the team as the doctor at that stage and I don’t think he stopped talking for the entire trip there,” Moosajee said, “He has grown into one of the most astute leaders that this country will ever witness, but for me, the most impressive element about Graeme is the humbleness and humility with which he has gone about his work, he is an great example for everyone in the team.”