Stewart refutes Smith quit claims
Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart has refuted claims that Graeme Smith may be about to retire, following a series of tweets that gave the impression Smith would not be returning to The Oval.
Smith is currently in his second year of a three year contract with Surrey but has once again not been able to complete a full season through injury. This year it was a fractured knee, diagnosed earlier in the week, which forced him to return home on Monday night.
Smith's activity on social media seemed to suggest he was packing in entirely; thanking the club and the staff and saying it had been a privilege to be a part of Surrey.
But Stewart, who drove back from Surrey's game at Chelmsford to take Smith and his family to the airport last night, confirmed that the former South Africa captain has "a lot to consider" regarding his future.
Upon returning home, Smith will consult with a specialist, who is expected to recommend surgery on the knee. From there, recovery and rehab will determine whether Smith will be able to return for the back end of the 2014 season, something that Stewart, with his "very limited knowledge" on the injury sustained, feels is unlikely.
"I had a good chat with him last night," Stewart told ESPNcricinfo. "Where he is, he's thoroughly enjoyed his time with Surrey, despite it being two very brief periods over the last two years. He's still under contract for next year - it's a three year deal that he has signed.
It's been a privilege to be a part of @surreycricket and thank everyone at the club!— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) May 26, 2014
"After seeing his knee specialist, he will find out exactly what the way forward is and, from there, whether he'll be out for a matter of weeks or months. As soon as we have more information, from the damage to the knee, we'll be in a better position to say if he is coming back or not. I would have thought it was doubtful."
It was during the second innings at Kent that Smith began feeling some discomfort in his knee. Surrey's medical team did their best to manage the injury, prescribing painkillers to give Smith some comfort, but when the effects of those wore off, even walking proved a struggle.
He batted superbly in the fourth innings of the following game against Gloucestershire, registering his first Championship hundred for Surrey to see them home for a first win of the season and a first victory under Smith. But even here he did not look right, at times hobbling between the wicket on the final day, even requiring medical attention in the middle when he was nearly run out by opening partner Rory Burns.
Smith then played Twenty20 matches against Sussex and Somerset before scans confirmed a fracture in his knee and medical attention was required. He may now have played his last game.
Without Smith, Surrey are again looking for a replacement captain. Gary Wilson has assumed the role for the current Championship match against Essex. Stewart, while impressed with Wilson's handling of the responsibility over the last few days - he has also keeping wicket so that Steve Davies can focus on his batting - has stated that there is no certainty that Wilson will be in charge for the rest of the season.
Injuries are always tough especially when you feel job is half done. Sad to be leaving @surreycricket today but wish the club and team well.— Graeme Smith (@GraemeSmith49) May 26, 2014
As for Smith's replacement as overseas player, Hashim Amla has been signed until June 25, which will take him to the end of the Championship game against Leicestershire at The Oval. He will miss the upcoming four day game against Worcestershire as he returns to South Africa to attend a Cricket South Africa awards dinner and could be unveiled as the new South Africa Test captain.
Stewart confirmed that Surrey will be in the market for another overseas player but conceded that the international schedule will make things tricky. Every Test nation is involved in one series or another before the end of the county season.
"We'll look at options and decide if there is one that will enhance our squad," Steward said. "If there isn't anyone we feel would better the squad, then we won't sign one. All that will be looked at over the next four weeks."
It remains to be seen just how much Championship cricket Kevin Pietersen will play. He arrives at the club in the next few days from captaining the Dehli Daredevils in the IPL and will line up for Surrey in their NatWest T20 Blast fixture against Middlesex on Friday evening. Primarily on a T20 contract, he has no obligation to play four day or even 50-over cricket, but has the option to make himself available for either of those formats.
Pietersen is also set to play in the Caribbean Premier League for the St Lucia Zouks, but Stewart confirmed that Pietersen's involvement in the competition will not involve missing T20 games for Surrey.