South African cricket September 4, 2008

Smith won't return until he's 100% ready

Cricinfo staff

Graeme Smith: "I've pushed along and I probably pushed myself for too long if I'm honest with myself" © Getty Images

Graeme Smith has said he will not jeopardise his chances of featuring in the upcoming away and home series against Australia by making a hasty return to the game. Smith, suffering from tennis elbow, is set to consult a surgeon next week and "conservative" medical advice suggests he might only be fit in time for the first Test against Australia in Perth, which starts on December 17.

Smith also said it was in the team's best interests to take a break and not play a tri-series, proposed by Pakistan to fill the gap left by the Champions Trophy. "Not only from Pakistan and India but also West Indies, Canada and New Zealand - everyone has tried to get the team on a tour," Smith said. "If we are going to be successful we need everybody fit and everybody playing well. The build-up process is going to be important for the tour of Australia. A tournament now won't be in the best interests of the team ... I don't think."

Smith played in England while experiencing discomfort in his elbow, especially during his series-winning century at Edgbaston, but his unwillingness to risk his availability for the Australia challenge could result in him missing the Champions League in India, scheduled from December 3-10. Smith is contracted to the Rajasthan Royals, who qualified for the tournament as winners of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Smith was one of the leading run-scorers for his team but missed the final with a hamstring injury.

"I've taken injections in the tendon. I'm seeing a surgeon next week and we will take it from there," Smith said. "There is a lot of time before the next event and I don't think I will come back till I'm 100% ready. I don't want be like Jacques [Kallis] who kept coming back too early and ended up having to take a lengthy break."

Kallis persisted despite a similar problem in 2005 and 2006, and missed a major part of the tour of Australia. He finally underwent surgery in mid-2006, ruling him out of the tour of Sri Lanka. "It's about feeling ready and being ready for it," Smith said, "and I will make that decision."

Smith admitted he had gone against medical advice in the past but was eager not to miss the Australia tour. "I've pushed along and I probably pushed myself for too long if I'm honest with myself," he said. "We haven't stopped since the World Twenty20 and I think it just takes its toll on your body. Emotionally and mentally the guys are feeling it at the moment."

Since the ICC World Twenty20 at home in September 2007, South Africa have been on away tours to Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and England, and hosted New Zealand and West Indies. Many of their key players were also part of the IPL, which spanned six weeks. "This period of time must be used properly in terms of training, getting our bodies back to the point where they need to be and come back and start next season stronger, fitter and healthier than we finished this one.

"The Australian tour is something that we've all worked for and want to be ready for and something we are excited about. I think our results this year have given us confidence and we are looking forward to the tour."

He also backed Kallis to regain his form. Kallis, who led South Africa in Smith's absence in the final three ODIs, had a torrid time in England with the bat, scoring 104 runs at an average of 14.85 in the Tests, and 68, at an average of 17, in the ODIs.

"We are not used to seeing Jacques in a slump ... he's been the glue in our batting for eight or nine years. He's struggling to find out what it is [that's wrong] but now he'll have some time away from the game," Smith said. "He wants to contribute to South Africa for a few more years."

Mickey Arthur, South Africa's coach, said he would reconsider South Africa's one-day squad composition, while Smith admitted the team had failed to fill the void created by Shaun Pollock's retirement.