Surrey sign Smith as captain for three years
Surrey have signed Graeme Smith as their captain on a three-year deal and he will take over the leadership with immediate effect.
That aim would appear to be achievable with South Africa scheduled for short tours in each of the next two English summers. In 2013 they will tour Sri Lanka but the Tests leg of the tour has been postponed until 2015. South Africa are due to tour Zimbabwe in 2014 and Bangladesh in 2015 with both tours only including two Tests, three ODIs and a T20.
Smith, currently touring Australia with South Africa, has captained his country in a record 94 Test matches since taking over in 2003 and will now lead the revival of Surrey - a county who were rocked by the death of Tom Maynard this summer. Captain Rory Hamilton-Brown left the club in the wake of losing his friend and flatmate and Surrey have looked to sign senior players to provide leadership in a dressing room that also lost Mark Ramprakash to retirement.
Vikram Solanki from Worcestershire and Gary Keedy from Lancashire were both brought in and the signing of Smith completes a core of senior figures to guide what is otherwise a young, inexperienced squad.
Smith, 31, will also plug a large hole at the top of the order. Surrey tinkered with several opening combinations in narrowing avoiding relegation last season, beginning the year with Jacques Rudolph and Steve Davies and ending it with Rory Burns and Zafar Ansari - who have played 26 first-class matches between them. Smith's 11,522 first-class runs at 50.75, encompassing 104 Tests and 8,413 runs, will provide great experience opening the innings.
The move will also provide Smith with extra stability for his family. His wife is from Ireland and during the summer they had their first child.
Smith will join up with Surrey close to the start of the 2013 campaign. South Africa's home series against Pakistan concludes on March 24 with the English season set to begin on April 9.
"I am excited to be joining such a professional and talented team," Smith said, "during what will hopefully prove to be a rewarding and successful period for Surrey. When you consider the ambition shown it was an easy decision for myself and my family and I would like to thank Surrey and Cricket South Africa for giving me the opportunity to lead the side and make it possible.
"I am excited about what we can achieve at Surrey going forward and would like to state very clearly that I will balance my new role alongside my continuing commitments to the Proteas and I look forward to continuing to represent my country for many years to come."
Surrey director of cricket Chris Adams added: "Signing Graeme is a massive coup for Surrey. As well as being one of the best captains in the modern game, he is a phenomenal opening batsman and will lead by example from the top of the innings.
"By signing a three year deal, Graeme has demonstrated his commitment to Surrey on a long term basis and I look forward to working alongside him and the rest of our hugely talented squad to bring more silverware to this club in the near future."
The deal will see Smith return to county cricket for the first time since 2005 when he led Somerset to the Twenty20 Cup title, scoring 380 runs. He also scored 472 first-class runs at 67.42.