Graeme Smith calls for ICC leadership
Graeme Smith is settling into life as a former South African captain, leaving behind an international game that he says needs "leadership and direction" if it is to navigate its way through the current melee of political and governance issues.
Smith's final months as South Africa's leader - a role he held for an astonishing 11 years - came with the country being marginalised on the world stage, firstly through the controversy of the abridged India tour and then by the formulation of the Big Three around the ICC boardroom table which left South Africa on the outside, nervously looking in, wondering what their status as the No. 1 Test team will afford them.
"The game is facing a few challenges at the moment, whether they are good or bad I don't know," Smith told ESPNcricinfo in an interview with Mark Butcher. "Only time will tell. Leadership is crucial. The ICC need to show that and take the game forward, give it direction. There is a huge interest in all formats."
Smith has not opted to bolster his pension with a dash around the world playing Twenty20, instead committing to the intense county cricket schedule with Surrey. He acknowledged, however, that the financial rewards being offered by Twenty20 leagues around the world can often be hard to ignore. Reflecting on his time leading South Africa, Smith said one of his key principles was putting money to one side.
"You need to have something that people want to be a part of for more than just money. That's what we really worked in on South Africa, our cultural identity, what made us want to play for South Africa instead of chasing money around the world because that is a really factor in world cricket now. The game needs good direction especially from administration."
Whether Smith will ever have the desire to work in a cricket boardroom remains to be seen, but for now his playing days are not over as he embarks in the final two years of his Surrey deal after an injury-aborted start in 2013 when he required ankle surgery which sowed the first seeds of international retirement.
"I think things slowly progressed last year. I had big ankle surgery, Gary [Kirsten] walked away from the job, a new coaching structure came in, Jacques [Kallis] retired, stuff started playing on mind. It was about having the courage to make that last decision. I'd been captain for 11-12 years which has certainly taken its toll. How I react to retirement, I don't know. It's hard to predict."
And he knows the Surrey job will not be an easy ride before finally hanging up his bat for good. "There are a lot of really young guys who need to grow and hopefully I can play a role in all of that," he said. "We probably lack a little of the middle-of-the-road cricketers, those in the middle of their careers, so have a bit of work to do.
"The club is trying to stay a little under the radar and let our performances determine where we go. It's a club with a huge stature and we want to get our cricket up to that level."