New Zealand v South Africa, 3rd Test, Wellington March 22, 2012

Graeme Smith praises "terrific" bowling unit


Graeme Smith has praised his varied bowling attack for making his job as captain easier, as South Africa chase a series win with his team 1-0 up ahead of the third Test at the Basin Reserve.

"The maturity the guys have shown as a bowling unit has been exciting for me," Smith said. "The guys have shown great discipline. There's also been great aggression thrown in there."

Russell Domingo, South Africa's assistant coach, said Smith had never been happier with the attack at his disposal and Smith confirmed that it is a luxury to be in charge of such a talented group. "I've been lucky. There have been a lot of great bowlers along the way but the all-round attack now is terrific," Smith said. "To have three frontline seamers is rare for a captain. They all offer something different which allows me to attack in different ways all the time.

"And then we've got an attacking spinner (Imran Tahir) who has also showed a lot of control for us at times when he was needed and it has allowed us to use Jacques [Kallis] in more impact roles. In the past, we've had some great bowlers but maybe not so much the whole rounded mindset."

Smith's attack is developed enough for him not to have to issue instruction anymore but merely offer advice. "You always need to be giving a degree of guidance," he said. "It's not me telling him, it's more of a discussion about what we're trying to achieve so that we can both be cohesive in the way that we're thinking and planning. I have a good relationship with the bowlers so that generally happens quite quickly."

Ross Taylor's situation is a little different. While the New Zealand captain has the experience of Chris Martin and Daniel Vettori, Doug Bracewell is relatively new in the national side and Mark Gillespie has only just made his comeback. Rather than a settled unit to work with, Taylor has to cope with tactical teething issues and Smith said this series could prove defining in terms of the captain Taylor will one day become.

"With their team, there's lots of talk of where they want to go," Smith said. "I guess that's important for Ross to understand, do you want to go with six frontline batters or four seamers? That's the decision we had to make in 2008. In 2007 and we went with strike bowlers and six batters to do the job. I think that's an important decision for him as a captain. It's still early days from that perspective so maybe this series will be a crucial stepping stone for him in terms of how he wants New Zealand to play."

Taylor has acknowledged that the team is still a work in progress. "I'm still in my infancy as a captain and I'm learning the whole time," Taylor said. "There are different things you pick up along the way. I'm just learning from different situations and picking peoples' brains and learning off the opposition."

Smith is only three years older than Taylor, but in cricket years, Smith is much older than that. On Friday, Smith will captain South Africa for the 90th time, Taylor will lead New Zealand for the seventh. Smith is the most experienced current national captain, Taylor the least. There's knowledge to be transferred, knowledge that Smith believes begins with fear.

"The more experience you gain, maybe the more fear you gain. And then you gain a knowledge in how to deal with certain circumstances and situations that you are going through and that players are going through," Smith said, recalling his own captaincy journey, which began in 2003. "For me, at 22, I lacked fear because I didn't know what to expect. I have gained a lot of experience now in terms of dealing with those situations."

The fear Smith talks about is the that of balancing attack with defence. It's the fear that having built up a reputation, it could all come crashing down and the hunger to ensure that does not happen. Smith insists he has become that kind of fearful, but it does not show. He has led South Africa to a five-year stretch of being unbeaten in a series away from home.

Whatever happens in Wellington, that record will remain in intact and Smith can take his badge of honour with him to England. His fear of maintaining that record can resurrect itself in July. For now, he will concern himself with finishing this season in the best way possible. "I just want to steer the ship well," Smith said. "The last Test of the touring summer is always important."

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vvsquare on March 23, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    they might be a strong bowling make no mistake..indias gonna thrash d bowling attack of the proteas in the friendly T20

  • Natx on March 23, 2012, 1:42 GMT

    The coming summer at England and then at Australia will be the defining moments for SA. If their batters hold their nerve, there is no reason why this bunch couldn't go on to become the real world #1 team. Smith, Amla, Kallis and DeVilliers are the key folks for these 2 series. Expect JP Duminy to return. SA is always a good fielding unit and as long as the bowlers maintain this kind of form they have the right mix to put the poms and kangaroos back in their places. Can't wait for these 2 series to begin after India's pathetic show in 2011.

  • Supa_SAFFA on March 22, 2012, 22:54 GMT

    In Lonwabo Tsotsobe South Africa also has the world's number 1 ranked ODI bowler, yet even though he would walk into most international test sides with such a pedigree, he still warms the bench for SA. That should give some perspective on the quality and depth of SA bowling.

  • dummy4fb on March 22, 2012, 21:24 GMT

    One need not be a South African fan to accept the potency of their bowling attack. If you look at how Steyn has bullied the rankings for the best of half a decade and contrast his world class performances with that of Philander who has consistently shaded the incumbent No.1 in almost every test he has played gives one a fairly good perspective of Philander's pedigree. Yes HawK89, I concur they two are world class - I would go further and say they are the 2 best bowlers currently, formwise, and results wise. At the same time one should not overlook the effectiveness of Morkel as well. Although not at his best consistently, there are only 8 other bowlers ranked above him. While stats dont tell you the whole story they give you a fair indication of the strength of a team and with Kallis, Devilliers, Smith and Amla in the top 10, if you do the addition you would quickly see that the SA team fields 7+1(wicketkeeper)world class players in their top 11. Enough said.

  • Pratchett on March 22, 2012, 15:59 GMT

    I'm glad Smith didn't forget about all the fantastic bowlers South Africa has had in his tenure. Fans tend to have very short memories. This attack as a whole is the best we've had, but individually they are still a work in progress. Beware of being too confident though. Overconfidence is the reason why SA chokes. The Black Caps could conceivably win the last test because of this. Never forget - England will be favourites and a lot can happen between now and the tour down under.

  • dummy4fb on March 22, 2012, 15:55 GMT

    I really like this idea of 'fear' that Smith introduces. In a way it explains some of the implosions SA have suffered in the last 15 or so years. What is needed is that the 'fear' is converted into something positive and hopefully that can be most evident in crunch situations. I shall watch with interest...

  • dummy4fb on March 22, 2012, 13:19 GMT

    @Hawk89. they great enough to bowl Australia for 47 odd. None the less SA's problems is they dont start well after a long break. Thats something they need to resolve by playing more warm up matches. This is at the moment the second best bowling attack ever behind the great Aus bowling line of McGrath, Warne, Lee, etc.

  • highveldhillbilly on March 22, 2012, 13:09 GMT

    @hawK89 - silly comment, Aus just thrashed the pants off India so they can't be that bad. Aus also won that test on the back of a fine bowling performance from Cummins - No shame in that.

  • RandyOZ on March 22, 2012, 11:46 GMT

    Hawk89 - they were facing Pat Cummins, the best young bowler on Earth right now, give them some credit.

  • tanstell87 on March 22, 2012, 11:35 GMT

    Indian fan here....good chance for Saffers to beat England with this attack...Philander looks good...India lost due to injuries in England & inconsistent performance in Australia...South Africa will be touring England & then Australia...let see what happens...guess Proteas gonna come on top...India's premier batsmen are aging while South Africa's are not...forgot about the current series...NZ doesnt have any batsmen apart from McCullum & Taylor to cope with this SA attack..SA will win easily !

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