August 6, 2008

Preparing to learn from the master

Their antipathy is undisguised, but Pietersen has more to learn from Smith than any other leader
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Graeme Smith: a role model for his enemy © Getty Images
 
Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain will forever be remembered as two of England's finest captains, but when Graeme Smith sat down on the podium at The Oval this afternoon, you could almost imagine their heads perched on pikes behind him. South Africa's vastly impressive captain has grown another inch in stature in the course of this series, but whatever he goes on to achieve, the manner in which he has imposed his will on successive tours of England will take some beating.

In 2003 Smith was a willful 22-year-old, brash beyond his years but with a talent to match, and his youthful aggression was more than a jaded Hussain could deal with. Five years on, and he's striding into the prime of his career with a team that does his bidding, and a faith in his personal form that enables him not only to make big runs, but make them when it really matters. His second-innings hundred at Lord's turned the tide of the series, while his epic at Edgbaston sent the waves crashing over Vaughan's career.

And yet, after two days of celebration, culminating in a reception at the South African embassy in Trafalgar Square, Smith's gameface was firmly back in place at The Oval this afternoon. As he talked in measured, honest, but ominous terms about the challenges that come with leadership, the magnitude of the task that lies ahead for his new opposite number, Kevin Pietersen, yawned into view.

"It's going to be an interesting reign to see," said Smith. "He's got a one-off Test against us, so he'll be hugely motivated. He'll be excited, nervous, and have a lot of energy, but whatever you do in this game as captain, it's about sustaining it afterwards. He won't experience too many of the pressures of captaincy right now, but he'll really start to understand it in a few months' time. Running a team and getting a team to play for you, it's going to be interesting."

You could sense from Smith's demeanour that the appointment of Pietersen has really sharpened his focus for this game. "I think there's a mutual respect in terms of performance. That's probably as far as it goes," he said, neither seeking to ramp up the animosity between the two men, nor deny that it exists. The days of name-calling have long since past. All Smith needs to do to increase the pressure is to indulge in a bit of statesmanlike superiority.

Because, for the first time in their long history of antipathy, there is clear blue water visible between the serene Smith and the tangibly anxious Pietersen. It's not just the difference in terms of captaincy experience (Smith has led in 184 internationals as well as countless first-class and List A games; Pietersen's only opportunity came in defeat against New Zealand at Lord's last month), the devil is in the detail as well.

The universal respect of his nation, the rapport with his coach, and the command of his team-mates - these are all the aspects of the role that Smith enjoys by dint of his efforts over the course of five years. Pietersen has all that lying ahead of him in the coming weeks and months.

He has certainly made a promising start in his new role, by naming a side that differs decisively from the tentative line-ups picked by Vaughan, and which could, given a following wind, come to mirror his attacking mindset. But there are questions about his relationship with Peter Moores that refuse to go away, and his current eagerness to be all things to all men might, in the short term at least, restrict his ability to be his own man in the middle.

"It's going to be interesting now he's been thrown a lot of curveballs around him," said Smith. "As captain you have to have an open mind, you have to arrive at a stadium where so many different things challenge you from day to day, and it's not only about your performance." Recalling the reckless drive that brought about Pietersen's downfall for 94 at Edgbaston, Smith stated, baldly: "One thing I will say, is that captaincy will make him think about that now."

If the Oval pitch plays with anything resembling the pace and carry that has been promised by the groundsman, Bill Gordon, a result should be reached, and the likelihood is that a settled South Africa will once again prove too strong for an England side seeking inspiration rather than playing with it. Nevertheless, the timing of Vaughan's departure may, in hindsight, prove to be as perfectly hasty as that of his own predecessor, Hussain. One Test will prove nothing about Pietersen's credentials as a captain, but this week could provide him with the single most relevant lesson in leadership he could ever wish to receive.

Though Smith and Pietersen would doubtless hate to admit it, the two men have similarities that extend beyond their nation of birth. Both are driven to a degree that most mortals would struggle to recognise. In Pietersen's case, it drove him to throw in his lot with South Africa as a teenager, and back himself to make it big in a foreign land on the opposite side of the world. Smith may have stayed put in the physical sense, but mentally he has been striving for the same degree of greatness ever since the day he came home with a school assignment at the age of 12, and stuck the goal: "To captain South Africa" on his fridge door.

 
 
Though Smith and Pietersen would doubtless hate to admit it, the two men have similarities that extend beyond their nation of birth. Both are driven to a degree that most mortals would struggle to recognise
 

It's as if the Cape wasn't big enough for the two of them. The batsmanship that each possesses has been abundantly apparent throughout their careers, but so too the brashness. In Smith's case, the maturity he sought to project in his day-to-day dealings was undermined by a manner that, in his early days, would rub up his team-mates to the same degree that it riled his opponents. High-profile errors of judgment - complaining about Australia's sledging on his maiden tour in 2001-02, or testifying against Vaughan in front of the match referee during a fractious Johannesburg Test three years later - were mistakes not easily rectified, except through sheer weight of personality, and a crash course in diplomacy.

Personality is something that Pietersen has by the bucketload, but his diplomacy is an ever-developing aspect of his game. "I think you bump your head a lot as captain," said Smith. "I certainly bumped my head a few times as a young guy. But it's how you face up to that. Do you look at it with an open mind, learn for yourself, and take the lessons on board? Those will be the important things for him. He might have a good run of it, but when you bump your head for the first time, how do you reassess and where do you go from there?"

At 28, Pietersen is the right age for the responsibility, but until that first bump occurs (and if Smith has anything to do with it, it will take place right here in SE11 within the coming five days), he will have use his single-mindedness as his default setting in times of unease. As Smith admitted right at the start of the tour, such an approach was exactly how he survived the turbulence of his first five years in charge of South Africa.

"But that wasn't sustainable for me," he warned. "There was a period of time when I took a balls-to-the-wall sort of approach, when I was going to put everything into my batting, and expect the same from the team. But then you have to find something that can be more sustainable. It's only when things aren't working out that you have to look at yourself and say: 'How can I improve, and how can I get the team to improve?'

"It's also about where his team is and where he wants to take them," said Smith. "As a captain, when you ask a lot of your players, you've got to walk the walk also, and it's not always possible to achieve those performances. He has some massive challenges ahead of him coming up, and he doesn't have too many easy options ahead either."

That may be so, but having been thrust into the role with a haste that has taken even the man himself by surprise, the lessons of the coming weeks must be lapped up with alacrity by Pietersen. From Vaughan with England and Shane Warne at Hampshire, he has learnt something of the art of victory from two of the best tacticians you could ever wish to have on your side. But, at this present moment in the game, there is no leader with more experience, presence and tactical acumen than Smith. And nor is there a player whose example Pietersen could do better to follow.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • insightfulcricketer on August 8, 2008, 14:10 GMT

    Chazzaca , I agree with you that Alan Border was one of the best players of any era. A crab like character who may not be pretty to watch but mightily effective. Something like Miandad ,Dhoni or Ranatunga. I have seen him play lone hands in India when all the other Aussie players were resting in the hut. He goaded the team to a World Cup in '87 and a Tied test in India in '86. Given the resources at hand he managed to extract more than maximum from them. I think he epitomized the indomitable Aussie cricketing spirit especially during the tough times of '83-'89.Who can forget the circumstances in which he got the captaincy . A captain going out in tears. In my opinion there can be no argument Border was a true cricketing diamond.

  • Mikeman on August 8, 2008, 11:55 GMT

    Smith is the best captain ever. Brilliant article mate. KP should learn from the best!

  • Chazzaca on August 7, 2008, 16:00 GMT

    PatrickON,

    Greg Chappell was by far more skilled than AB but he also had the benefit of having great sides with him for most of his career. AB had to pick up the pieces when Chappell, Marsh & Lillie all retired at the end of 83/84 and carry them until they smashed the Poms in '89. He had an amazing 56.51 average away from home including 5 hundreds in Pakistan/India at a time of no neutral umpires!! I agree there have been some more gifted batsman but for me AB will always be #2 behind the Don for of his raw courage as well as skill. Not many know that he's still the only player in Test history to score 150 in each innings - in Pakistan in 1980 against Imran Khan & Safraz at their peak as well as their dodgy umpires!! The Windies bowlers weren't the only top bowlers he faced - Iram Khan, Wasim Akram, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, list goes on. AB took an average side and made them great which is what KP will try to do as opposed to taking over an already great side as Ponting did.

  • PatrickON on August 7, 2008, 13:27 GMT

    Chazzaca you've got no argument with me regarding AB. A brilliant captain. But the best batsman since Bradman? Come off it mate. I think Greg Chappell might have something to say about that, among many others. He was a great bat considering the strong bowling he faced, but to be fair the majority of that was only from the Windies. I strongly disagree with any sentiment that lends towards attributing the last 15 years of Aussie dominance purely to the cattle. We have produced good players yes, but they have been captained brilliantly by Waugh and Ponting - who both benefited from the AB approach of uncompromising unfallibility. It's this mentality that KP will benefit from - and as he is far more like Ponting that AB in his character - I still suggest that is where he turns his attention for any inspiration.

  • FBD1 on August 7, 2008, 13:21 GMT

    Best man to lead England today is Strauss. The English press will finish KP off. Pity. He is (was!) entertaining. Smith, by the way, is a better captain today for playing under Warne in the IPL. Warne, by the way, is the best captain that International Cricket never had.

  • klempie on August 7, 2008, 13:18 GMT

    Just one corrective comment. Pietersen is from Natal Province not the former Cape Province. But England can keep him.

  • Ryanbrew on August 7, 2008, 13:14 GMT

    PatrickON, please get your fact straight. Since 2004 Smith has captained South Africa in 6 tests against Aus, 9 against England, they have been on tour twice to India (5 tests) and have played India in 3 tests at home. SA have played 10 against the Windies, 8 Against NZ.

    You said that SA play BAngladesh, Sri Lanka and Zim more often than anybody else. Yet they have played more games against Aus alone than against the 3 teams you metioned combined. Here are the facts of how many Smith has played against them: 2 against Bangladesh, 2 against ZIM and 2 against Sri Lanka (all away from home). Get your facts straight!!!

    Smith may not be the greatest Captain ever, he didnt start well. But if you actually look at what he has put up with and how he has shaped this side. The respect that he has from his entire team, and the level of authority he has been walking with on the field, there is not doubt that he is growing into one of the best captains in the CURRENT test arena.

  • Chazzaca on August 7, 2008, 13:04 GMT

    Ricky Ponting a role model - are you kidding me??? He hasn't had to worry much about his captaincy because his teams look after themselves. Heck I could have captained those teams and they's still had the same results. His career Test average was 59.29 when Warne, McGrath & Langer retired - he's been batting 48.75 since which includes a 158 against the sub-standard Windies The Ashes '05 & Ishant Sharma showed up what Ponting's like against top-class bowling!!

    Allan Border is a far better role model as he faced world class bowling all his career and captained some poor Aussie sides in the mid/late '80s. His record given some of the bowling attacks he faced is extraordinary and he didn't have the Warnes, McGraths or Gilchrists at his disposal. AB was by far the best batsman we've produced since Bradman and arguably our best captain ever.

  • Flymogram on August 7, 2008, 13:03 GMT

    Smith the master? Utter rubbish! Vaughan had the better of him in 2004/5, no mistake. To say that Smith ended Vaughan and Husssain's carreers is nonsense.

  • PatrickON on August 7, 2008, 12:31 GMT

    What a ridiculous article. To assume that Graeme Smith is the master!! Risible at best Andrew Miller, a typical journalistic beat up. Kevin Pietersen should take precious little from Smith, who hasn't even been a better captain than Cronje. Cronje had a 51%/20% win/loss record, whilst Smith currently stands at 47%/28%. Compare that to the recent Australian captains and it looks rubbish, particularly considering SA play Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and (until recently) Zimbabwe far more frequently than Australia or England. If KP wants a role model, look to Ricky Ponting - a similar character with brilliant instinctive batting ability who hasn't let his standards drop with the expectations of captaincy. They are both highly competitve individuals with a hard nosed, no nonsense appreciation of both cricket and human character.

  • insightfulcricketer on August 8, 2008, 14:10 GMT

    Chazzaca , I agree with you that Alan Border was one of the best players of any era. A crab like character who may not be pretty to watch but mightily effective. Something like Miandad ,Dhoni or Ranatunga. I have seen him play lone hands in India when all the other Aussie players were resting in the hut. He goaded the team to a World Cup in '87 and a Tied test in India in '86. Given the resources at hand he managed to extract more than maximum from them. I think he epitomized the indomitable Aussie cricketing spirit especially during the tough times of '83-'89.Who can forget the circumstances in which he got the captaincy . A captain going out in tears. In my opinion there can be no argument Border was a true cricketing diamond.

  • Mikeman on August 8, 2008, 11:55 GMT

    Smith is the best captain ever. Brilliant article mate. KP should learn from the best!

  • Chazzaca on August 7, 2008, 16:00 GMT

    PatrickON,

    Greg Chappell was by far more skilled than AB but he also had the benefit of having great sides with him for most of his career. AB had to pick up the pieces when Chappell, Marsh & Lillie all retired at the end of 83/84 and carry them until they smashed the Poms in '89. He had an amazing 56.51 average away from home including 5 hundreds in Pakistan/India at a time of no neutral umpires!! I agree there have been some more gifted batsman but for me AB will always be #2 behind the Don for of his raw courage as well as skill. Not many know that he's still the only player in Test history to score 150 in each innings - in Pakistan in 1980 against Imran Khan & Safraz at their peak as well as their dodgy umpires!! The Windies bowlers weren't the only top bowlers he faced - Iram Khan, Wasim Akram, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, list goes on. AB took an average side and made them great which is what KP will try to do as opposed to taking over an already great side as Ponting did.

  • PatrickON on August 7, 2008, 13:27 GMT

    Chazzaca you've got no argument with me regarding AB. A brilliant captain. But the best batsman since Bradman? Come off it mate. I think Greg Chappell might have something to say about that, among many others. He was a great bat considering the strong bowling he faced, but to be fair the majority of that was only from the Windies. I strongly disagree with any sentiment that lends towards attributing the last 15 years of Aussie dominance purely to the cattle. We have produced good players yes, but they have been captained brilliantly by Waugh and Ponting - who both benefited from the AB approach of uncompromising unfallibility. It's this mentality that KP will benefit from - and as he is far more like Ponting that AB in his character - I still suggest that is where he turns his attention for any inspiration.

  • FBD1 on August 7, 2008, 13:21 GMT

    Best man to lead England today is Strauss. The English press will finish KP off. Pity. He is (was!) entertaining. Smith, by the way, is a better captain today for playing under Warne in the IPL. Warne, by the way, is the best captain that International Cricket never had.

  • klempie on August 7, 2008, 13:18 GMT

    Just one corrective comment. Pietersen is from Natal Province not the former Cape Province. But England can keep him.

  • Ryanbrew on August 7, 2008, 13:14 GMT

    PatrickON, please get your fact straight. Since 2004 Smith has captained South Africa in 6 tests against Aus, 9 against England, they have been on tour twice to India (5 tests) and have played India in 3 tests at home. SA have played 10 against the Windies, 8 Against NZ.

    You said that SA play BAngladesh, Sri Lanka and Zim more often than anybody else. Yet they have played more games against Aus alone than against the 3 teams you metioned combined. Here are the facts of how many Smith has played against them: 2 against Bangladesh, 2 against ZIM and 2 against Sri Lanka (all away from home). Get your facts straight!!!

    Smith may not be the greatest Captain ever, he didnt start well. But if you actually look at what he has put up with and how he has shaped this side. The respect that he has from his entire team, and the level of authority he has been walking with on the field, there is not doubt that he is growing into one of the best captains in the CURRENT test arena.

  • Chazzaca on August 7, 2008, 13:04 GMT

    Ricky Ponting a role model - are you kidding me??? He hasn't had to worry much about his captaincy because his teams look after themselves. Heck I could have captained those teams and they's still had the same results. His career Test average was 59.29 when Warne, McGrath & Langer retired - he's been batting 48.75 since which includes a 158 against the sub-standard Windies The Ashes '05 & Ishant Sharma showed up what Ponting's like against top-class bowling!!

    Allan Border is a far better role model as he faced world class bowling all his career and captained some poor Aussie sides in the mid/late '80s. His record given some of the bowling attacks he faced is extraordinary and he didn't have the Warnes, McGraths or Gilchrists at his disposal. AB was by far the best batsman we've produced since Bradman and arguably our best captain ever.

  • Flymogram on August 7, 2008, 13:03 GMT

    Smith the master? Utter rubbish! Vaughan had the better of him in 2004/5, no mistake. To say that Smith ended Vaughan and Husssain's carreers is nonsense.

  • PatrickON on August 7, 2008, 12:31 GMT

    What a ridiculous article. To assume that Graeme Smith is the master!! Risible at best Andrew Miller, a typical journalistic beat up. Kevin Pietersen should take precious little from Smith, who hasn't even been a better captain than Cronje. Cronje had a 51%/20% win/loss record, whilst Smith currently stands at 47%/28%. Compare that to the recent Australian captains and it looks rubbish, particularly considering SA play Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and (until recently) Zimbabwe far more frequently than Australia or England. If KP wants a role model, look to Ricky Ponting - a similar character with brilliant instinctive batting ability who hasn't let his standards drop with the expectations of captaincy. They are both highly competitve individuals with a hard nosed, no nonsense appreciation of both cricket and human character.

  • Snowbro on August 7, 2008, 12:05 GMT

    What the history books don't reflect is that the English win over SA, On the SA tour, Was on The Eve of Cricket Transformation Testing In SA, Boucher was Dropped For A Black Wicket Keeper, Gibbs, was dropped, They Brought in a young Dale Steyn that still had Shaun pollocks Poster on his Wall, Etc,

    After the Sudden loss to England, they woke up, put in a propper team, but by then the Serries was lost, Thank goodness the transformation is over, and SA now Supports a Team of Mixed race on Merit. Now SA can take on Aus Etc, fairly, the Previous matches were never on Merrit till now.

  • Parth_Pala on August 7, 2008, 11:06 GMT

    I disagree the best captains are the ones who show result rather than get close, thats why early on likes of Clive Llyod turned a very talented but erratic team into champions. Imran Khan did it with Pakistan. In the modern game Gangulys India beat Australia at home and are the only team in the last decade to push them at home where they were saving the series not the visitors, and the pressure that is much more in the sub-continent, hence they are better than, the likes of Smith, Cronje, Vaughan etc. all of whom have all been steam rolled and their record overseas isn't anything to cheer about. Fleming was a great tactician and the closest to being a great captain of the modern era. Now as far as Australians go ask anyone and they will put Mark Taylor as much better captain than Waugh or Ponting. I believe most of the people writing here never saw what he did and only really got interested. when Waugh came and brought a more array of viewership and arm chair opinions.

  • lobengula on August 7, 2008, 11:04 GMT

    Smith is a good captain...as was Vaughan (who as far as i'm concerned made picking a specialist captain justifiable) I would like to know though - Why did Vaughan give Pieterson the last over to Smith in the last test? He must have realised what he was doing and that cannot be very nice for Pieterson.

  • lateswinger on August 7, 2008, 10:14 GMT

    England selectors are making the same mistake again. Strauss should have been captain as he has tons of experience. They made Michael Vaughan captain when he was England's best batsman. Now once again the ECB are going to ruin the best batsman in the team. Will KP play with the same abandonment (ala Viv) that is a part of his game? Just imagine KP getting out to a reckless stroke in a big game. The press will have field day and you will then have a player with the burden of captaincy on his shoulders. KP is bound for failure.

  • gavbergin on August 7, 2008, 9:43 GMT

    Have the England hierarchy learned nothing from past mistakes? Obsessed as they always are with the Ashes (showing a disrespect to the likes of South Africa and Sri Lanka that is staggering-and counterproductive), surely they should have remembered the last time they handed their 'star' player( the captaincy, instead of the obvious candidate. Result? The whitewash! The Embarrassment of 2006 proved the folly of ignoring a sensible cricketing choice (Strauss) in favour of a populist, newsworthy one (Pietersen). They've done it again, ignoring Strauss's superb Test record in captaining England, in favour of KP's non-existent one. Talk of his gaurenteed place in limited-overs sides will ring fairly hollow when he is floundering when the Australians are applying the boot next summer. And that's the whole point isn't it? The Ashes!

  • Zandman on August 7, 2008, 9:35 GMT

    I must say this is one of the best articles I've ever come across on cricinfo. It's a truly great read even if you have no clue about cricket. Super job Andrew Miller! Back to the topic. Smith is not one of the greatest captains ever, but there is no doubting that he is probably the only man in the world that could achieved what he did with this south african team. I have bucket loads of respect for him. And on KP well I can only wish him well. Even if I have no respect for the man's being I do respect his talent, but talent does not make a captain. So like smith said it will be interesting...

  • tass on August 7, 2008, 9:21 GMT

    No doubt Graeme Smith has that strong fighting character, been through tough times with the tansformation policy, plenty of negative critics but never stepped down form captaincy.My all time favourite capatin would be Australian Captain Steve Waugh.

  • TheDoctor394 on August 7, 2008, 9:10 GMT

    Er... Vilander... regular SA victory over England? It's been years since they won a series against England. And I'm a bit puzzled about Shane Warne being named as a great captain amongst so many other luminous people. He never ever captained a Test Match! He could have been great, but due to his rather sad off-field behaviour, we'll never really know.

  • kevinsawers on August 7, 2008, 8:55 GMT

    No disrespect to Graeme Smith but its a bit rich to call him the master! If Kevin Pietersen wants to learn from a master he would be better off calling any Australia captain over the past little while. I am no fan of Ricky Ponting [i think he should be dropped from the aussie team] but even he led a team who in the 05/06 season whalloped SA 5 nil out of a 6 test series [played in Aust and SA].

  • 158notout on August 7, 2008, 8:40 GMT

    Vilander - the press are making a big thing out of is because A. it is the first time South Africa have won a series in India for over 40 years. B. the most successful England captain of all time has just resigned, leading to C. perhaps the best 'South African' cricketer in the world has just become England captain. As for it being a 'regular' win over a poor England side - they may be at a low point now, but up until just over a year ago England had sat at 2nd place in the rankings for several years. I predict South Africa going on to take No.1 position in both forms of the game as both Australia and India are going to suffer the same dip as they move through a period of transistency. Australia still need to find that opening partership and have no spinner, whilst India will lose 5 of their first Test 11 in the next couple of years - Dravid, Ganguly, Tendulkar, Laxman and Kumble. Only time will tell.

  • NOPQ on August 7, 2008, 8:11 GMT

    In this article and the previous one about Vaughan's resignation you show a staggering lack of generosity to the ex-captain. So far as I remember when Vaughan took over in 2003 they were one down and flailing. They drew that series at the Oval with some brilliant, attacking cricket. Vaughan then captained England to a series win in SA. Smith has had next to nothing to do with the resignation of Vaughan - in fact he had little to do with Husain's resignation either. He is not that great a captain under pressure either but I concede he is very good at batting under pressure.

  • camyjunior on August 7, 2008, 7:31 GMT

    No argument that Graeme Smith is a great Captain. For Smith to become captain of a team such as SA at a young age, when they already have/had quality players such as Kallis & Pollock, and to have the team perform the way they have just goes to show how good a captain he is. I'd don't quite agree that records make a good captain (Punter) can a captain make a difference in an already star studded team? As for KP I think it's a good choice. You need an agressive player who can inspire the team. With KP I guess England have got it right. I also think he will do well in the next test as captain. However as Andrew says, loosing a test does not make him a bad captain.

  • Vilander on August 7, 2008, 7:25 GMT

    Smith is a good batsman anda captain. But Beating a poor side like England does not make Smith a great captain. Wonder why english authors are making such a big thing out of a regular SA victory over England.

  • slackingaway on August 7, 2008, 7:24 GMT

    I do agree with u Coke, I think Graeme Smith is the best South African Captain that I may know of. He has a good connection with his own players and he will succeed. But the real question is why is Graeme Smith considered a Master. I think if Pietersen wants a good role model for a captain, no doubt Shane Warne, he proved that he can win games and trophy easily with a handful of big names. He showed what captaincy is... compared to the rest. However, I hope Pietersen batting does not change with the captaincy. Yes, he should not get "out" to fast but he should play his normal game I feel. After seeing most of the English Captains... their batting becomes more atrocious when they become captain

  • Pushpak on August 7, 2008, 7:11 GMT

    Hansie Cronje i love the most as he leads his side in inspiring way ... Imran khan was a Hitler so he succeds. Dhoni is way of leading is great in way that he utilises every resource in effective manner.

  • Sudzz on August 7, 2008, 7:02 GMT

    At the outset let me say Iam not too enamoured by KP but having had said that he is a man impossible to ignore.What I feel is that he is not the best captaincy material right now and the job should have gone to Strauss who is a more level headed individual.

    But and this is a big but, there was one other very charismatic player who was very similar in flamboyance as KP and was as brash and aggressive as KP (both with team mates and opponents) and had all the traits that differentiated him from his team to the extent that the team and he were like chalk and cheese.

    The man Iam talking about is the best ever captain from the sub continent and probably the best ever or the second best (I maybe biased) all rounder the game has ever seen. The inimitable Imran Khan was very similar to KP in many respects almost an alien in the Pakistani set up. What with his English education and Anglicised approach to life and managing a team of almost rustic players.

    So if KP uses his aura well then....

  • IrshadM on August 7, 2008, 6:49 GMT

    Contd Kapil Dev - If not for his 175*, India would have been without a major triumph till 07. One of the few who players who was at the top of his game whilst being the captain of his team and India's first true great cricker. Still 14 years after his retirement India is still searching for a plater who can be called as a all rounder (Pathan has a lot to prove)

    Hansie Cronje - Forget about match fixing issue, he was an awesome captiain. If not for the match fixing issues his captaincy record would have been much more grander. Appreciate him for the way he built the SA team for which the reap the rewards still. True, he had the best of team yet he united them under the falg of SA and made them almost world beaters. Would have loved to have seen match where Cronje captains SA and Warne captain Aussies. What a match it would have been. It would have been a more mental game than a physical one

    Current best - Smith. I am afraid that Sanga will be come the best cap that SL never had

  • IrshadM on August 7, 2008, 6:39 GMT

    ~~~Contd from previous post

    Imran Khan - Player who had the finest farewell (Remember, 1992 world cup final). He turned a team of great individuals (but a pathetic) team into a great team. They were the world beaters under him and unearthed/developed talents like Wasim, Waqar, Inzamam, Anwar, Mushtaq, Qadir. If not for him we wouldn't be taliking about Wasim or Waqar to this date. Yes, he had a great team but they didn't know how to plat as a team. He was responsible for defeating WI in their back yard (WI in 80's) and if not for some poor decisions would have won the series too.

    Arjuna Ranatunga - A great captain and a astute tactitician and stood up for his younger players. If not for him, Murali will be working in his father's confectionary business right now. Would have been happy if he had reitred in 1996 after the triumph and what a send off it would have been (Would have been better than Imran Khans). Had only 3 great players in the 1996 squad (Sana, Aravinda and Murali)

  • IrshadM on August 7, 2008, 6:31 GMT

    In my personal opinion the best captains of all time were Fleming, Warne, (although he captianed a few matches),Imran Khan , Arjuna Ranatunga, Hansie Cronje, Clive Lloyd and Kapil Dev. A captain is as good as his team, hence I do put Ponting and Waugh in the same league. Follwing are the reasons for for my slections

    Fleming - Making the best use of availble resources. He never had the full/strong team at his disposal and perofrmed admirably well with the players he had. I've never seen Fleming, Astle, Mcmillan, Styris, Cairns/Oram, Harris, Mccullum/Parore, Vettori, Bond, Mills in the same line up.

    Warne - No need to explain, he proved himself in the IPL and we didn't have the opportunity to witness one of the best tacticians of all time. He doesn't try to be aggressive, he is naturally aggressive. Imagine a situation like this. If the opposing team is to get 10 of one over, Warne will be only player who will not be hesitant to have all the fielders in the ~~~contd~~~

  • Cokes on August 7, 2008, 5:56 GMT

    The SA players are a diverse bunch from differing opportunity groups and require more effort to work as a whole. Plus there are groans and moans about selections and quotas, and this becomes an issue when the teamk doesn't perform.

    Smith has performed on all counts. He has done this in a difficult environment and his longevity is only matched by Aussie captains (who get picked for rest of career) and unmatched by the sub continental captains ...sorry, Ganguly et al may be good, but they have all fallen out of favour for personality reasons at some point.

    Other SA captains were well revered but Cronje (imo) was a 'reactor' and never 'made things happen' and played to 'not lose'- Pollock lacked a bit tactically (bowler) and didn't have respect from all players , esp non whites (as personally related to me by one of them at a function in Sydney in 2002).

    As a tactician alone Fleming would still be the best (imo) but as an overall package Smith is among the very best ever.

  • Cokes on August 7, 2008, 5:46 GMT

    You cannot compare the Aussie captains with Smith's situation. Firstly in Australia being cricket captain is regarded as next best to Prime Minister, so everyone is going to respect whoever it is...God forbid it will be Michael Clarke next. If ex PM Howard wished he was aussie captain instead.

    Then, the aussies have so much talent and back up players that any captain will have a high success rate and incumbent players will always perform well to maintain lucrative contracts. Taylor just kept the seat warm, but Waugh was the only one to change how the game is played, with teams starting to score at rates (4 per over) to put themselves always in winning mode.

    Being a respected, anmd successfull, SA captain requires a more unique person. The SA public do not respect the position, they respect the individual based on performance and attitude, how much you win and how you handle defeat (aussie captains pretty bad at that though not used to it). ...continued...

  • DAN22 on August 7, 2008, 5:42 GMT

    The discussion is veering from the English captaincy to the Indian captaincy. I would like to add my two bit to it. I dont consider Ganguly as the best captain India ever had. I would say that India had certain captains who infused something into the team. If captains like Wadekar and Pataudi bought strategic thinking to the job, Kapil bought belief, and Ganguly bought young aggression. Dhoni and Kumble both are now getting in a "give youe best efforts and dont worry about the rest" kind of confidence. Dhoni looks like a possiblity to become the best Indian captain since he has age on his side and an all-rounder (batsman+wk) profile. I also agree that Naseer and Vaughan cannot be called the best schools of learning...Shane Warne may fit that bill though.

  • Rooboy on August 7, 2008, 5:41 GMT

    KP seems to be too much of an individual, more concerned with his own exploits than those of the team. Perhaps captaincy will change him in this aspect, perhaps not, only time will tell. One thing that is for certain now is that Australian fans around the world will be smiling to hear that the english selectors have recalled harmison. Fingers crossed that he retains his spot for the next Ashes series!

  • PottedLambShanks on August 7, 2008, 5:39 GMT

    This is a good article, lots of insights into Smith who is undoubtedly the best captain out there at the moment, by a long distance. Notwithstanding his apparent new-found maturity, he remains the most dislikable man in cricket, though, perhaps with the exception of Shoaib Akhtar.

  • Brenton1 on August 7, 2008, 5:19 GMT

    Ponting is not a great captain - its his side that is great. he didnt have to do much with the likes of Warne, McGrath, Lee etc in his bowling side and his batsmen always delivered. Im sure a great captain would have been able to defend 434 but ponting has very little experience being under pressure until recently when all his greats have started retiring.

  • slackingaway on August 7, 2008, 3:30 GMT

    I am sorry to say that I disagree with most of the Indian captains you may have named. I think the best Indian captain ever was Kapil Dev. Graeme Smith is a fantastic captain South Africa have had. But Kumble and Ganguly should not be named as a great captain. Dhoni fairs far better than them. Look at India's track record in 1 days and Twenty20 under his leadership compared to the other 2. But I disagree that Graeme Smith is most experienced and tactically astute. I feel Ponting will fill that role until someone beats his record as a Captain. Not losing 1 game in a World Cup and being 2 time champions. Another I can name of is Imran Khan, who help establish Wasim Akram bowling, bringing in a dangerous young Inzamam. These are my 2 great captains

  • Metal_Militia on August 7, 2008, 0:12 GMT

    ...contd...India would never have had players such as Zaheer, Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Dravid (Ganguly gave him a chance to maintain his spot in the team if he kept wickets), Pathan (2003 tour of Aus). There were others given opportunities that they squandered. All in all, these great captains can be terrific examples for all new and upcoming players seeking to captain their countries. Graeme Smith is a good captain and performs for his team as well, however, there is a long way to go before he can join the Wall of Fame, I am sure he'll get there soon. Pietersen shouldn't be judged so early as it will be unfair. He should take his time and be brave to include those in the eleven who he feels will do the job for him. He must lay the strategies and pick players who fit the role, if it means 'Drop' Vaughan and push Ian Bell to #3, then must do it. Then Collingwood can jump to #4, he deserves it, followed by himself and Freddie. A perfect line-up. But will he take that step??

  • Metal_Militia on August 7, 2008, 0:03 GMT

    Nice Article, however, Smith is not the greatest of them all. According to me Kev should look at a few other mordern day great captains and follow their lead, viz, Shane Warne(Australia's best captain that never was!!), Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting, Stephen Fleming, Arjuna Ranatunga, Saurav Ganguly. The common factor amongst these great captians was, their ability to back youngsters and stand beside them and not behind them while they went on to achieve greatness. Warne was probably the best tactician on the field, Tubbs too, Punter backd his team with his own performance and seldom let the team down, easily the most consistent skippers in terms of performance. Flemo brought about a change in the Kiwis attitude and a great leader and gifted craftsman himself. Arjuna was aggressive and innovative winning the 1996 world cup, through sheer shrewd tactics. Sourav is probably under-rated. If it wasn't for his ability to back youngsters and push them to the great things....contd...

  • ZubinWadia on August 6, 2008, 22:48 GMT

    I don't know about Kumble, but he is certainly superior to Ponting @ the same age...

    Some more thoughts here: http://zwadia.com?p=23

    Cheers,

    Zubin.

  • riwaj100 on August 6, 2008, 22:16 GMT

    kumble? you have to be kidding laotzu. ponting for sure. fleming was great before he retired and vaughan does have the skill for batting but what hapenned to his battin. the english need to learn to play fearless cricket and i think under kevin peitersen that might happen.

  • LaoTzu on August 6, 2008, 20:31 GMT

    Wonderful article.

    Although it pleases me, it does surprise me to read Smith hailed as the most experienced and tactically astute leader in cricket. Better than Ponting? Kumble? I'm not so sure!

    He is excellent, however, and I agree that Pietersen will have a sharp learning curve ahead of him and would do well to look to Smith as an example in many of the challenges he'll face. Probably, however, he will do it his way, and that could just as likely be for the best as for the worst. I'm very eager to see how things pan out.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • LaoTzu on August 6, 2008, 20:31 GMT

    Wonderful article.

    Although it pleases me, it does surprise me to read Smith hailed as the most experienced and tactically astute leader in cricket. Better than Ponting? Kumble? I'm not so sure!

    He is excellent, however, and I agree that Pietersen will have a sharp learning curve ahead of him and would do well to look to Smith as an example in many of the challenges he'll face. Probably, however, he will do it his way, and that could just as likely be for the best as for the worst. I'm very eager to see how things pan out.

  • riwaj100 on August 6, 2008, 22:16 GMT

    kumble? you have to be kidding laotzu. ponting for sure. fleming was great before he retired and vaughan does have the skill for batting but what hapenned to his battin. the english need to learn to play fearless cricket and i think under kevin peitersen that might happen.

  • ZubinWadia on August 6, 2008, 22:48 GMT

    I don't know about Kumble, but he is certainly superior to Ponting @ the same age...

    Some more thoughts here: http://zwadia.com?p=23

    Cheers,

    Zubin.

  • Metal_Militia on August 7, 2008, 0:03 GMT

    Nice Article, however, Smith is not the greatest of them all. According to me Kev should look at a few other mordern day great captains and follow their lead, viz, Shane Warne(Australia's best captain that never was!!), Mark Taylor, Ricky Ponting, Stephen Fleming, Arjuna Ranatunga, Saurav Ganguly. The common factor amongst these great captians was, their ability to back youngsters and stand beside them and not behind them while they went on to achieve greatness. Warne was probably the best tactician on the field, Tubbs too, Punter backd his team with his own performance and seldom let the team down, easily the most consistent skippers in terms of performance. Flemo brought about a change in the Kiwis attitude and a great leader and gifted craftsman himself. Arjuna was aggressive and innovative winning the 1996 world cup, through sheer shrewd tactics. Sourav is probably under-rated. If it wasn't for his ability to back youngsters and push them to the great things....contd...

  • Metal_Militia on August 7, 2008, 0:12 GMT

    ...contd...India would never have had players such as Zaheer, Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Dravid (Ganguly gave him a chance to maintain his spot in the team if he kept wickets), Pathan (2003 tour of Aus). There were others given opportunities that they squandered. All in all, these great captains can be terrific examples for all new and upcoming players seeking to captain their countries. Graeme Smith is a good captain and performs for his team as well, however, there is a long way to go before he can join the Wall of Fame, I am sure he'll get there soon. Pietersen shouldn't be judged so early as it will be unfair. He should take his time and be brave to include those in the eleven who he feels will do the job for him. He must lay the strategies and pick players who fit the role, if it means 'Drop' Vaughan and push Ian Bell to #3, then must do it. Then Collingwood can jump to #4, he deserves it, followed by himself and Freddie. A perfect line-up. But will he take that step??

  • slackingaway on August 7, 2008, 3:30 GMT

    I am sorry to say that I disagree with most of the Indian captains you may have named. I think the best Indian captain ever was Kapil Dev. Graeme Smith is a fantastic captain South Africa have had. But Kumble and Ganguly should not be named as a great captain. Dhoni fairs far better than them. Look at India's track record in 1 days and Twenty20 under his leadership compared to the other 2. But I disagree that Graeme Smith is most experienced and tactically astute. I feel Ponting will fill that role until someone beats his record as a Captain. Not losing 1 game in a World Cup and being 2 time champions. Another I can name of is Imran Khan, who help establish Wasim Akram bowling, bringing in a dangerous young Inzamam. These are my 2 great captains

  • Brenton1 on August 7, 2008, 5:19 GMT

    Ponting is not a great captain - its his side that is great. he didnt have to do much with the likes of Warne, McGrath, Lee etc in his bowling side and his batsmen always delivered. Im sure a great captain would have been able to defend 434 but ponting has very little experience being under pressure until recently when all his greats have started retiring.

  • PottedLambShanks on August 7, 2008, 5:39 GMT

    This is a good article, lots of insights into Smith who is undoubtedly the best captain out there at the moment, by a long distance. Notwithstanding his apparent new-found maturity, he remains the most dislikable man in cricket, though, perhaps with the exception of Shoaib Akhtar.

  • Rooboy on August 7, 2008, 5:41 GMT

    KP seems to be too much of an individual, more concerned with his own exploits than those of the team. Perhaps captaincy will change him in this aspect, perhaps not, only time will tell. One thing that is for certain now is that Australian fans around the world will be smiling to hear that the english selectors have recalled harmison. Fingers crossed that he retains his spot for the next Ashes series!

  • DAN22 on August 7, 2008, 5:42 GMT

    The discussion is veering from the English captaincy to the Indian captaincy. I would like to add my two bit to it. I dont consider Ganguly as the best captain India ever had. I would say that India had certain captains who infused something into the team. If captains like Wadekar and Pataudi bought strategic thinking to the job, Kapil bought belief, and Ganguly bought young aggression. Dhoni and Kumble both are now getting in a "give youe best efforts and dont worry about the rest" kind of confidence. Dhoni looks like a possiblity to become the best Indian captain since he has age on his side and an all-rounder (batsman+wk) profile. I also agree that Naseer and Vaughan cannot be called the best schools of learning...Shane Warne may fit that bill though.