THE CORDON HOME

BLOGS ARCHIVES
SELECT BLOG
August 6, 2008

Mike Holmans

Unlikely hero

Mike Holmans
Graeme Smith produces a rare flourish during his obdurate innings, England v South Africa, 1st Test, Lord's, 4th day, July 13, 2008
 © Getty Images
Enlarge

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.

RSS Feeds: Mike Holmans

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by 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

Posted by 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....

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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...

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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..

Posted by 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.

Comments have now been closed for this article