Mike Holmans August 6, 2008

Unlikely hero

Smith, even though a flawed and less talented player than Kallis, is perhaps more likely to achieve greatness
39

When I read Samir Chopra's piece about the deep and lasting pain which is occasioned by your team's losing a Test match, I nodded vigorously while muttering "46 all out". By rights, then, I should have been devastated by the loss at Edgbaston, especially since I'd come into the series thinking England had a decent chance of winning it, but somewhat to my own surprise, this one hardly hurt at all.

I think I felt a bit like the Yorkshire member who advanced on Bradman as he left the field at Headingley in 1948 and expostulated "You… you… b-booger!" It shouldn't have happened, it couldn't have happened, but it did, and there was nothing left but to marvel. England were beaten at Edgbaston by one of the great fourth innings hundreds at the end of a vibrant Test match which hardly ever flagged; they had an excellent chance of winning which they did not blow but which was wrestled out of their grasp by a captain who would not be denied.

It must be infuriating to bowl at Graeme Smith. At least when you bowl at someone like Shiv Chanderpaul or Rahul Dravid you probably realise that you are extremely unlikely to get him out, an expectation which he is only too glad to fulfil, but surely it exhausts your mental energy to see Smith apparently escaping danger by the thickness of the laminate on his bat all the time.

His batting is almost endearingly gauche, not unattractive so much as unpolished; its lack of education gives it a veneer of vulnerability and danger. Whereas most leading Test batsmen present finely-drawn shots played with practiced ease, Smith offers prototypes cobbled together from a sketch on last evening's restaurant napkin. His feet are often in the wrong place, or the bat is too far from the body or held at the wrong angle, or it's not really the right shot to play at that ball - it seems that by all logic he should be out twice an over, but instead he manhandles his strokes to great effect and gets a barrowload of runs.

If the batting of an Ian Bell or VVS Laxman or Mark Waugh was lovingly constructed by skilled automotive engineers and expensive design consultants, Smith's was put together on Scrapheap Challenge - and as with the odd-looking contraptions made of cannibalised parts, it sometimes works spectacularly well.

The prize for the best comment on my piece about Jaques Kallis goes to Howard, who demonstrated a perfect understanding of what I intended by remarking that Smith, even though a flawed and less talented player than Kallis, is perhaps more likely to achieve greatness. I shall be rather cross with him if he does, because I don't remember receiving an application from him to join my list of heroes. In my world, Smith is not supposed to be a great batsman: what he is supposed to be is lbw, trapped on the crease by an inswinger.

As may be apparent, I have not previously been one of Smith's admirers: I sat through his double hundred at Lord's in 2003 (another match I remember with 'Samiristic' despair) wondering how bad bowlers had to be to fail to get this limited lunkhead out. But cricket never ceases to surprise, and if he eventually joins my pantheon, his innings at Edgbaston will be the point at which he started to change my mind.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ascsas on September 6, 2008, 13:41 GMT

    i agree 500% Graeme smith is an abomination a disgraceful cricketter who is a by product of the favourable conditions batsmen have enjoyed for the past decade or so

  • Rohit on August 11, 2008, 19:27 GMT

    I find it surprising that cricketing world has taken so long to take note of Graeme Smith the batsman. This man, when he first appeared on Cricketing scene was a ruthless run scorer. His first three double centuries came in almost no time when he first arrived. It is no coincidence that he has got the record for highest individual score by a South African! His batting may not be the most fluent or effortless, but that is what Graeme Smith as a cricketer is all about. he may not be naturally the most gifted of batsmen or captain, but rare combine of humility to learn from his mistakes and an audacity to stand up and face tough opponents and situations eye-to-eye is his greatest strength. He is one of the most determined and hard-nosed cricketers to have come across in recent times. And make no mistake, he is one hell of a batsman... his record is pretty darn good !! Screw the technique....

  • Chris Callaghan on August 11, 2008, 13:14 GMT

    Hehehe, yep, three greats rightly mentioned in the same breath - Laxman, Waugh and Ian Bell. Hahaha! That's funny. As an Aussie cricket lover, if I could pick a world-best side today, the first batsman I'd pick would be G. Smith (although Sehwag would be a close second). Smith is a brilliant cricketer. Maybe even better than Ian Bell!

  • CHA on August 9, 2008, 20:22 GMT

    @Arun... nobody has e ability to bully/bludgen/caress an attack in style like Hayden...minus the style Smith is e closest, and Gambhir has the potential

    Who says Smith is the 'premier'captain in world cricket... if SA conquor's Aussie it can be cotemplated, highly unlikely tho, given the 2 premier batsmen have meagre avgs vs Aussie..

    Kumble nearly did the impossble, he prob wud ve had the review syst been in place, this does not mean he s the premier capt tho...

    Ponting's excellent record as capt dnt make him e best around either (Dan Cullen cud captain and Aus wil stil win)

    Flemming/Mahela/Vaughan(to some extent) have bn the best goin aroun... 2 of the 3 are no more.. the ability maximize ltd resources in a given context makes these 3 (especially Flemming) stand out

    Smith is a good captian but like Ponting he has the benefit of (atleast 4) class acts...

  • Arun on August 7, 2008, 17:08 GMT

    The Hayden comparison is deviating attention from what the author is trying to say which is Smith is a potential great. My comparison between Hayden and Smith was to merely underline the fact that Smith, like Hayden plays in an audacious manner and it was a tacit statement of Hayden's greatness. A also happened to mention that all the big scores that Smith makes stand in his favor. Unfortunately the only takeaway from my statements has been that Hayden does not score big hundreds. Here's the basis of what I said -

    http://blogs.cricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2008/03/hanging_in_there_after_a_hundr.php

    And this doesnt lend in anyway to the discussion on whether Smith is a great player or not.

  • Arun on August 7, 2008, 17:06 GMT

    The Hayden comparison is deviating attention from what the author is trying to say which is Smith is a potential great. My comparison between Hayden and Smith was to merely underline the fact that Smith, like Hayden plays in an audacious manner and it was a tacit statement of Hayden's greatness. Unfortunately that only takeaway from my statements has been that Hayden does not score big hundreds. Here's the basis of what I said -

    http://blogs.cricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2008/03/hanging_in_there_after_a_hundr.php

    And this doesnt lend in anyway to the discussion on whether Smith is a great player or not.

  • Engle on August 7, 2008, 14:03 GMT

    On the topic of G.Smith achieving greatness, I'm reminded of an American Idol show where Andrea Bocelli and David Foster(producer, songwriter) were invited to critique the contestants. Foster was in the process of explaining to a contestant what it is that separates a good singer from a great one. At which point Bocelli interjected with the statement " Greatness can not be achieved. It can only be bestowed upon you ". Which left Foster flummoxed and the viewer with quite the thought to ponder.

  • AJAX on August 7, 2008, 9:23 GMT

    Hey "pundit sez", from this sentence: "But Hayden never scored the kind of big hundreds that's become a Smith hallmark" I would infer that Hayden has NEVER scored a hundred as high as Smith's recent high scores. Which is quite a DAFT statement when Hayden's highest score is a hundred runs better than Smith's highest. If you meant something different, maybe you should have written that. If you're gonna correct someone, the least you can do is make sure you are correct first.

  • Prashant on August 7, 2008, 9:18 GMT

    Arun,

    Why are you comparing Hayden at his age to Smith at his age. Hayden made his big big hundreds when he started out. Remember the tours to India? He has 12 130 + scores. I'm a die hard Smith fan no doubt, but its unfair to say Hayden isn't the big innings player. His record speaks for itself. You can't look from just 2003 mate..

  • Mallencolly on August 7, 2008, 8:31 GMT

    Whether Smith is a "great player" or not can be answered very easily in my mind. As an opposition player/captain/fan, if Smith gets going, what do you think? As as SA fan, as long as Smith is in, I believe anything is possible. In that regard he matches Warne, Gilchrist, Murali or any other undoubtedly great player of the past few decades.

  • ascsas on September 6, 2008, 13:41 GMT

    i agree 500% Graeme smith is an abomination a disgraceful cricketter who is a by product of the favourable conditions batsmen have enjoyed for the past decade or so

  • Rohit on August 11, 2008, 19:27 GMT

    I find it surprising that cricketing world has taken so long to take note of Graeme Smith the batsman. This man, when he first appeared on Cricketing scene was a ruthless run scorer. His first three double centuries came in almost no time when he first arrived. It is no coincidence that he has got the record for highest individual score by a South African! His batting may not be the most fluent or effortless, but that is what Graeme Smith as a cricketer is all about. he may not be naturally the most gifted of batsmen or captain, but rare combine of humility to learn from his mistakes and an audacity to stand up and face tough opponents and situations eye-to-eye is his greatest strength. He is one of the most determined and hard-nosed cricketers to have come across in recent times. And make no mistake, he is one hell of a batsman... his record is pretty darn good !! Screw the technique....

  • Chris Callaghan on August 11, 2008, 13:14 GMT

    Hehehe, yep, three greats rightly mentioned in the same breath - Laxman, Waugh and Ian Bell. Hahaha! That's funny. As an Aussie cricket lover, if I could pick a world-best side today, the first batsman I'd pick would be G. Smith (although Sehwag would be a close second). Smith is a brilliant cricketer. Maybe even better than Ian Bell!

  • CHA on August 9, 2008, 20:22 GMT

    @Arun... nobody has e ability to bully/bludgen/caress an attack in style like Hayden...minus the style Smith is e closest, and Gambhir has the potential

    Who says Smith is the 'premier'captain in world cricket... if SA conquor's Aussie it can be cotemplated, highly unlikely tho, given the 2 premier batsmen have meagre avgs vs Aussie..

    Kumble nearly did the impossble, he prob wud ve had the review syst been in place, this does not mean he s the premier capt tho...

    Ponting's excellent record as capt dnt make him e best around either (Dan Cullen cud captain and Aus wil stil win)

    Flemming/Mahela/Vaughan(to some extent) have bn the best goin aroun... 2 of the 3 are no more.. the ability maximize ltd resources in a given context makes these 3 (especially Flemming) stand out

    Smith is a good captian but like Ponting he has the benefit of (atleast 4) class acts...

  • Arun on August 7, 2008, 17:08 GMT

    The Hayden comparison is deviating attention from what the author is trying to say which is Smith is a potential great. My comparison between Hayden and Smith was to merely underline the fact that Smith, like Hayden plays in an audacious manner and it was a tacit statement of Hayden's greatness. A also happened to mention that all the big scores that Smith makes stand in his favor. Unfortunately the only takeaway from my statements has been that Hayden does not score big hundreds. Here's the basis of what I said -

    http://blogs.cricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2008/03/hanging_in_there_after_a_hundr.php

    And this doesnt lend in anyway to the discussion on whether Smith is a great player or not.

  • Arun on August 7, 2008, 17:06 GMT

    The Hayden comparison is deviating attention from what the author is trying to say which is Smith is a potential great. My comparison between Hayden and Smith was to merely underline the fact that Smith, like Hayden plays in an audacious manner and it was a tacit statement of Hayden's greatness. Unfortunately that only takeaway from my statements has been that Hayden does not score big hundreds. Here's the basis of what I said -

    http://blogs.cricinfo.com/itfigures/archives/2008/03/hanging_in_there_after_a_hundr.php

    And this doesnt lend in anyway to the discussion on whether Smith is a great player or not.

  • Engle on August 7, 2008, 14:03 GMT

    On the topic of G.Smith achieving greatness, I'm reminded of an American Idol show where Andrea Bocelli and David Foster(producer, songwriter) were invited to critique the contestants. Foster was in the process of explaining to a contestant what it is that separates a good singer from a great one. At which point Bocelli interjected with the statement " Greatness can not be achieved. It can only be bestowed upon you ". Which left Foster flummoxed and the viewer with quite the thought to ponder.

  • AJAX on August 7, 2008, 9:23 GMT

    Hey "pundit sez", from this sentence: "But Hayden never scored the kind of big hundreds that's become a Smith hallmark" I would infer that Hayden has NEVER scored a hundred as high as Smith's recent high scores. Which is quite a DAFT statement when Hayden's highest score is a hundred runs better than Smith's highest. If you meant something different, maybe you should have written that. If you're gonna correct someone, the least you can do is make sure you are correct first.

  • Prashant on August 7, 2008, 9:18 GMT

    Arun,

    Why are you comparing Hayden at his age to Smith at his age. Hayden made his big big hundreds when he started out. Remember the tours to India? He has 12 130 + scores. I'm a die hard Smith fan no doubt, but its unfair to say Hayden isn't the big innings player. His record speaks for itself. You can't look from just 2003 mate..

  • Mallencolly on August 7, 2008, 8:31 GMT

    Whether Smith is a "great player" or not can be answered very easily in my mind. As an opposition player/captain/fan, if Smith gets going, what do you think? As as SA fan, as long as Smith is in, I believe anything is possible. In that regard he matches Warne, Gilchrist, Murali or any other undoubtedly great player of the past few decades.

  • Madan on August 7, 2008, 6:39 GMT

    Mike, I partly agree with you about Smith. I never thought his batting flukey - so I disagree there - because he always seems to be in a good position to pull off his shot but his batting never struck me as particularly elegant either, just rocksolid and assured. But I can see where the ranting from SA fans is coming from. When commentators - English, included - underplay Sehwag's assault on SA in Chennai as attributable purely to good batting conditions and then wax eloquent about Ian Bell's 199 at an equally placid Lords, one does start suspecting an element of bias. You may not have committed such doublespeak yourself but who says the nationality of the author doesn't tailor readers' perceptions too? :D

  • Arun on August 7, 2008, 6:22 GMT

    Knucks,

    That would be me. A big hundred would be a score of 150 + or atleast close to 150.

    Hayden doesnt have too many big hundreds. Infact since 2003 when he made 380 against Zimbabwe, he only has one 150+ score in tests. In the same period Smith has 3 double centuries, one 150+ and a couple of other scores of 140+.

    Now if you are going to be very selective about what to read from someone else's post the least you could do is be right about your observation.

  • Katherine on August 7, 2008, 4:58 GMT

    I both agree and disagree with a lot of the comment. I am a died-in-the-wool Smith fan and the thing which most excites me is the power of his mind. Even at the very beginning of his reign as captain he had the makings of a captain with the strength of mind of Steve Waugh the only one in world cricket at the moment to do so. The years are proving that this is so. The thing that most excites me about this current series is that for the fist time this mental strength seems to be rubbing off on the team in general. Long may it continue to grow.

  • knucks on August 7, 2008, 2:54 GMT

    "But Hayden never scored the kind of big hundreds that's become a Smith hallmark."

    geez where have u been the last two years? sopmeone with decent cricket knowledge please stand up?

  • Arun on August 6, 2008, 15:59 GMT

    I have similar sentiments on Smith. You form early opinions about cricketers which are hard to break. My opinion of Smith has changed over the last couple of years.

    His style of batting might be closest to Matthew Hayden's. Not so much for his ability to play all types of bowling but for the sheer audacity of his batting. But Hayden never scored the kind of big hundreds that's become a Smith hallmark. Smith might even be a mix of Hayden and Langer.

    Of the current South African players, Smith is one of two destined for greatness (Steyn's time may come later). In a way his batting is a reflection of the type of person he is. Smith is quite outspoken. Some say he's arrogant. His batting reeks of arrogance as well. He never backs out of a fight. He has his team's back at all times. All qualities of a great player and leader. At only 27, he's already the premier captain in World cricket.

    http://punditsez.blogspot.com/2008/08/amazing-smtih.html

  • Mike Holmans on August 6, 2008, 14:52 GMT

    Boy, some of you South Africans are touchy!

    I'll precis the piece for you:

    I used to think Smith was a mediocrity who was a sucker for a good inswinger (cf his record against Hoggard) because he has unsound technique, and most of his runs were got more by luck than judgement. After his innings at Edgbaston, he has shot up in my estimation to the extent that he is potentially an entrant to my personal list of great players.

    Players with unsound technique are not generally successful; Smith has unsound technique, so it is all the more meritorious as well as mildly surprising that he should be a success.

    I'm sorry if you find it offensive that I should change my mind about a player as he develops his career and I see him doing different things, but that's the way my mind works and I can't help it.

  • naresh on August 6, 2008, 14:31 GMT

    hang on guys smith is not that bad,though he is not classy or gifted,he makes use of his limited talent completly.He plays the waiting game to perfection .He makes the bowlers to bowl to his strength,by the way guys his onside game is not that bad.Than finally one has to see how effective he is not his style.guys remember his double hundreds in the last tour

  • Marcus on August 6, 2008, 14:19 GMT

    With regards to Graeme Smith's record, so far he only averages 22 against Australia- far below Kallis' 38, so on that basis I think it's a little premature to say that Smith is more likely to achieve greatness.

    And I'm also surprised that his technique scores him as much runs as it does- saying that, I'm also surprised that it's taken bowlers as long as it has to work out Ponting! Basically, although Smith's a good batsman, I don't think he's a great one yet, and I can't see him becoming a great one for quite some time.

  • Chris on August 6, 2008, 13:54 GMT

    Jeez Mike. You seem to have one massive South African chip on your shoulder.... Please crit your own team and leave our "great players" - including Kallis alone. If you don't like them, simply don't write about them.

  • Engle on August 6, 2008, 13:05 GMT

    Folks are using the term 'great' much too flippantly. Graeme Gooch's 154 against the marauding W.Indies pace attack was great. Graeme Smith's 154 against the English attack is not.

  • AJAX on August 6, 2008, 12:01 GMT

    Smith blah blah ugly blah blah clunky blah blah wrong blah... STOP WHINING. You can diss him all you want, feigning admiration to try and cover up, but at the end of the day it would only be an Englishman who would be in disbelief of the final result. Puzzled? Well consider this, how many other people would even think of mentioning "Ian Bell" in the same sentence as Mark Waugh or VVS Laxman? England belong to the bottom half of the Test playing nations... that's right, you can sing praises to your mediocre players all you want after their series against Bangladesh, Pakistan, New Zealand and the West Indies. Do us all a favor though... just hide your head in the sands for all their other series. A mouth full of sand would have been far better than this blog.

  • Alex on August 6, 2008, 11:47 GMT

    I read a previous article on cricinfo that staed the old school thought of technique was misplaced. Everything about a shot comes down to balance.

    That's an interesting thought, and Smith, while brutal and somewhat unconventional, is balanced when he plays the ball. Not before, not after; but at the point of contact. That, along with timing, is what determines power. It helps that he is built the size he is.

    Smith is not elegant, but bowling is not exactly textbook either nowadays. How you adapt is key.

    A final point, as commentators are fond of saying, is that the game is mental. You will find no greater personification of willpower, determination, and mental strength that Graeme Smith in the the modern game. Steve Waugh had it. Mike Atherton had it. Graeme's got it.

  • Tongy on August 6, 2008, 11:20 GMT

    As a disappointed Englishman, i feel it right to pay tribute to the rise of Graeme Smith and his heroic innings. England have had to watch their erstwhile captain fade from the glory of 2005, whilst SA have been able to enjoy a man reaching such heights and then producing one of THE innings of the last 10 years. It doesn't matter that he was nearly out once or twice, or that the pitch was good to bat on. SA were ninety odd for 4 and facing down the barrel, particularly if they lost another quick wicket. Smith dug in and dragged his side to victory. SA have quietly been posting good results over the last couple of years and much of this is surely down to a captain who seems more comfortable with himself and his role as leader. Well done Graeme, such fortitude and guts deserves much praise.

  • AJ Coetzee on August 6, 2008, 11:16 GMT

    I think Smith has fantastic technique for scoring quickly in test matches. Kallis is without a doubt the outstanding player South Africa has produced since readmission. Compared to other all-rounders his class is obvious, with Shaun Pollock being the only latter day all-rounder to rival him. But then Jacques is a batting all-rounder and the fitness and mental application needed to play big innings after bowling many overs and fielding like a wall in the slips is special. He's not great- He's awesome!

  • Walter on August 6, 2008, 11:02 GMT

    Dear author,

    You may say whatever you like. I'm glad that you have finally come to your senses and at least admitted your view on Smith has taken a change for the good.

    He is a matchwinner with major BMT, something South africa have lacked in the past and thus have been labled as chokers, Smith has almost single handedly taken that away and as you have seen other players in the outfit are stepping up.. I can only watch in awe at the way he gets down to business and proceeds to completely demorilize the other team.

    The thing is, the biggest matchwinner in the English team is a South African...who wasnt good enough to be in the national side( slight mistake on our part i admit) but then again without KP what do England have in the batting dept. that may be called world class???

  • Bokke on August 6, 2008, 10:58 GMT

    Yet again English arrogance to the fore.And they make themselves believe they are actually sportspeople. Under achieving beer drinking pot bellies. The only nation to take something positive out of another hiding. The skill and mental strength of Graeme Smith is beyond any English goof

  • Muneeb Dawood on August 6, 2008, 10:56 GMT

    What a great day for South Africans, indeed!

  • Louis bam on August 6, 2008, 10:45 GMT

    Shocked to see you have such a good cricketing brain but that you choose to give no credit to the South Africans - your new captain used to be a South African. If you can't give Kallis and Smith the respect they deserve, rather keep blowing hot air up your English players like you normally do.The whole world laughs at English press who rate their players above everyone else. You are extremely biased. Fine so Smith isn't a smooth batsman. Have you seen him take an attack apart in One Day cricket? Don't worry the assault will come in the upcoming series. Rather worry about your own players who have stayed in the English team even though they don't average 40... Figures only Bangladesh aspire to. Hardly hurt at all? 2-0 mate 2-0

  • Parthi on August 6, 2008, 9:42 GMT

    I think I can be considered a neutral where England and SA are concerned.But I did enjoy the proteas brand of cricket more than the English one. The SA had the spirit and will power, which is never there when England play. The talent is there, though not a single player can be called a real international great, like Tendulkar or Sangakkara or a Ponting.

  • Anonymous on August 6, 2008, 9:18 GMT

    "but somewhat to my own surprise, this one hardly hurt at all."

    stop contradicting yourself with these comments. Attacking South Africans. Kallis is too classy for you and smith is too scrappy. I'd say they compliment each other perfectly.

    When Smith said that "Its a great day for South Africans" after winning the game for them I wonder how much of that was hinted torwards Peterson and Strauss.

  • joe on August 6, 2008, 9:13 GMT

    Mr Holmans, how much more english can you be? It is true Smith does not have artistic batting style as bell or cook. But at the end of the day you compare records and not near misses. Every cricketer is given chances during play and is part of the game. If you didn't have anything else to write about, you could try writing about KP's arrogance and selfish character (94 runs in the last match; threw the wicket and probably the series). Smith has led from the front everytime the chips were down

  • Yasir Khan on August 6, 2008, 9:08 GMT

    Sorry to say Mike but its all the desperation of England getting so close to level the series and then a batsman with not-so-good technique came in front who they were not expecting to and he madee all the difference. You can't criticize a player just by looking at his batting technique and style. Look what happened in Galle where Lankans got the masters of technique batsmen like Dravid and Tendulkar and the were hammered by Sehwag who is also keen to play the ball away from his body. But at the end of the day he was the hero and the difference between the two sides. Its always harsh to accept the class of a player who thrashes your team away single-handedly. He has done it many times during his short career against Pakistan, India and now against England twice in three tests to rise to the occasion when his team needs him the most. English players would have much better technique than him but they couldn't show the determination, willpower and the courage this man has shown.

  • ty on August 6, 2008, 9:00 GMT

    having read your article and the resulting comments, i had to post a reply with a wry smile as i believe i understand your views well but also see the that the mind operating your machinery has obviously not grasped fully the greatness of a player of Smith's quality. His talent to compile huge innings is the ability to adapt to the type of bowling being presented on the day, bowl exceptionally well at him and he will caress the ball through the covers lovingly with incredible grace and poise for such a large man, bowl poorly,spraying it wide or short,with no logical thought or direction, without some sort of skill or tactic and he will hammer,batter,sledge or just plain edge you to all parts of the ground in response. England bowled truly poorly at Edgebaston, the best delivery having come from Flintoff to remove Kallis. its as much Smith's talent and ability to adapt as it was England's lack of disapline to bowl consistenly that won South Africa the series. Will power was the factor

  • Balaji on August 6, 2008, 8:27 GMT

    Well, in an England team it takes a South African to say he wont be a wimp - I wonder where that was aimed at! The English batsmen - Bell, Cook, Strauss, Vaughan and even Collingwood - seem to be unable to have the right mix of confidence. They are either overboard or underbaked. On the other hand, the Australian, South African, Sri Lankan and even Indian batsmen seem to go about their job with a self assurance not seen in English players. This probably shows that English players are unable to adjust to different pitches and conditions in the same way as they are unable to confront foreign tours. In an age where batsmen are averaging 50+, the English batsmen keep their places in the team by averaging in the mid 40s.

  • Niels Colesky on August 6, 2008, 8:00 GMT

    Malik and Mark; I could be wrong but I believe you are not reading what Mike is saying about Smith. Personally I agree with much of what Mike says (and I am a South African Die-Hard Graeme Smith fan). The best thing about Smith right now, and should be a worry for every apposing team we are going to face in the next two years at least, is that he has grown up a lot in the last five years and has many many more runs that he wants to score. He has scored two centuries this series and both have been very important one.

  • ssundar on August 6, 2008, 7:55 GMT

    Why do you smith's batting is not a joy to watch ? His attacking batting is a treat to watch.

  • Cameron Hogg on August 6, 2008, 7:11 GMT

    Graemem Smith's determination and will power is what sets him apart from others (particularly players like Bell). Cricket is a game of will power and Smith never fails to step down from a challenge. That is why he is so successful and why he should be admired as a player and captain.

  • malik on August 6, 2008, 7:02 GMT

    why are you so negative against the south africans? They have a great team. Pretty soon ur gonna try to convince us that harmison is greater than pollock. Dont undermine the value of south african greats.

  • Marc Allen on August 6, 2008, 6:27 GMT

    Graeme's stats and record don't lie. What a shame you have taken so long to even start admiring him. Who cares about style, grace and poise - it' results that count and Graeme has never been caught short in this department. You can have your Bell, Pietersen, Strauss and Cook - we'll keep our Smith whose record when all is said and done will outstrip all the aforementioned by many many miles.

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  • Marc Allen on August 6, 2008, 6:27 GMT

    Graeme's stats and record don't lie. What a shame you have taken so long to even start admiring him. Who cares about style, grace and poise - it' results that count and Graeme has never been caught short in this department. You can have your Bell, Pietersen, Strauss and Cook - we'll keep our Smith whose record when all is said and done will outstrip all the aforementioned by many many miles.

  • malik on August 6, 2008, 7:02 GMT

    why are you so negative against the south africans? They have a great team. Pretty soon ur gonna try to convince us that harmison is greater than pollock. Dont undermine the value of south african greats.

  • Cameron Hogg on August 6, 2008, 7:11 GMT

    Graemem Smith's determination and will power is what sets him apart from others (particularly players like Bell). Cricket is a game of will power and Smith never fails to step down from a challenge. That is why he is so successful and why he should be admired as a player and captain.

  • ssundar on August 6, 2008, 7:55 GMT

    Why do you smith's batting is not a joy to watch ? His attacking batting is a treat to watch.

  • Niels Colesky on August 6, 2008, 8:00 GMT

    Malik and Mark; I could be wrong but I believe you are not reading what Mike is saying about Smith. Personally I agree with much of what Mike says (and I am a South African Die-Hard Graeme Smith fan). The best thing about Smith right now, and should be a worry for every apposing team we are going to face in the next two years at least, is that he has grown up a lot in the last five years and has many many more runs that he wants to score. He has scored two centuries this series and both have been very important one.

  • Balaji on August 6, 2008, 8:27 GMT

    Well, in an England team it takes a South African to say he wont be a wimp - I wonder where that was aimed at! The English batsmen - Bell, Cook, Strauss, Vaughan and even Collingwood - seem to be unable to have the right mix of confidence. They are either overboard or underbaked. On the other hand, the Australian, South African, Sri Lankan and even Indian batsmen seem to go about their job with a self assurance not seen in English players. This probably shows that English players are unable to adjust to different pitches and conditions in the same way as they are unable to confront foreign tours. In an age where batsmen are averaging 50+, the English batsmen keep their places in the team by averaging in the mid 40s.

  • ty on August 6, 2008, 9:00 GMT

    having read your article and the resulting comments, i had to post a reply with a wry smile as i believe i understand your views well but also see the that the mind operating your machinery has obviously not grasped fully the greatness of a player of Smith's quality. His talent to compile huge innings is the ability to adapt to the type of bowling being presented on the day, bowl exceptionally well at him and he will caress the ball through the covers lovingly with incredible grace and poise for such a large man, bowl poorly,spraying it wide or short,with no logical thought or direction, without some sort of skill or tactic and he will hammer,batter,sledge or just plain edge you to all parts of the ground in response. England bowled truly poorly at Edgebaston, the best delivery having come from Flintoff to remove Kallis. its as much Smith's talent and ability to adapt as it was England's lack of disapline to bowl consistenly that won South Africa the series. Will power was the factor

  • Yasir Khan on August 6, 2008, 9:08 GMT

    Sorry to say Mike but its all the desperation of England getting so close to level the series and then a batsman with not-so-good technique came in front who they were not expecting to and he madee all the difference. You can't criticize a player just by looking at his batting technique and style. Look what happened in Galle where Lankans got the masters of technique batsmen like Dravid and Tendulkar and the were hammered by Sehwag who is also keen to play the ball away from his body. But at the end of the day he was the hero and the difference between the two sides. Its always harsh to accept the class of a player who thrashes your team away single-handedly. He has done it many times during his short career against Pakistan, India and now against England twice in three tests to rise to the occasion when his team needs him the most. English players would have much better technique than him but they couldn't show the determination, willpower and the courage this man has shown.

  • joe on August 6, 2008, 9:13 GMT

    Mr Holmans, how much more english can you be? It is true Smith does not have artistic batting style as bell or cook. But at the end of the day you compare records and not near misses. Every cricketer is given chances during play and is part of the game. If you didn't have anything else to write about, you could try writing about KP's arrogance and selfish character (94 runs in the last match; threw the wicket and probably the series). Smith has led from the front everytime the chips were down

  • Anonymous on August 6, 2008, 9:18 GMT

    "but somewhat to my own surprise, this one hardly hurt at all."

    stop contradicting yourself with these comments. Attacking South Africans. Kallis is too classy for you and smith is too scrappy. I'd say they compliment each other perfectly.

    When Smith said that "Its a great day for South Africans" after winning the game for them I wonder how much of that was hinted torwards Peterson and Strauss.