CSA not hurrying to name Smith's successor
South Africa are in no rush to appoint a new Test captain following Graeme Smith's retirement from international cricket. With their next assignment in Sri Lanka in July, Cricket South Africa has more than three months to choose the successor, and indications are the board will take its time mulling over it.
"We're fortunate there's a T20 series to follow this and we've already got an established captain," Haroon Lorgat, CSA's chief executive, said. "The next Test series is in Sri Lanka in July. So there's a bit of time and something the selectors will have to deal with. I don't want to pre-empt anything at this stage."
Lorgat, who was convener of selectors when Smith was appointed captain, said he would be in favour of a process similar to the one that applied more than a decade ago. "My recollection of the process is that the board confirms the appointment of the captain. I would support that approach. It's a big appointment, it's the leader. I'm sure the selectors will look across the entire team and choose, or recommend, whom they believe to be the best leader."
Although Lorgat would not be drawn into speculation over who would take over, it is likely to be either AB de Villiers or Faf du Plessis. De Villiers is the current Test vice-captain and also leads in ODIs. Du Plessis is the T20 captain, but because of de Villiers' glovework in Tests, he has also been tipped for the Test role.
Whoever succeeds Smith, it will mark a changing of the guard for South African cricket. Smith has led the Test side since April 2003, and every member of this squad has known no other captain on a permanent basis. He has been the team's constant, something that would have been impossible to predict when he was appointed at the youthful age of 22.
"It was a decision that was a gamble," Lorgat said. "We knew that Graeme had the kind of attitude that leaders are made of. He didn't have the benefit of age or experience on his side. But when you looked him in the eye, when you spoke with him it was apparent this was a chap who could make it. Thankfully, all these years later we see a formidable record, personal and team wise. He's certainly proven us right."
Smith's long service to South African cricket meant that although his announcement came prematurely, it was not altogether unexpected for Lorgat. "We thought it would be sooner rather than later he would call time," he said. And even though news of Smith's retirement broke late (10.20 pm) on the third night of a Test in which South Africa are struggling, Lorgat excused the timing.
"I've got no qualms with that, it's the right thing to do," he said. "When you wake up one morning and realise it's the end of the road for you, you share that with the people around you. That's his team. Once it's shared with the team you might as well tell the public. We want to be open and transparent rather than it filtering through some unfortunate source."
The exact reasons for Smith's decision to step away from the international game are not known, and it was thought that after South Africa achieved the top-Test ranking, he may want to hang around until the 2015 World Cup. But Smith did not play in the most recent ODIs - three against India - and Lorgat indicated the chances of him traveling to the tournament were growing slimmer.
"If you think back to the rise of Quinton de Kock, and with Hashim Amla opening, Graeme must be realistic. I've heard him and [Jacques] Kallis a couple of nights ago openly stating that if they don't deserve on performance to be in the team they wouldn't want to be in the team," Lorgat said. "These are professional players, these are fantastic players. Graeme must have evaluated his own chances and to call time now rather than wait for the World Cup."
Smith has now played his last innings. He will be lauded for his contributions with the bat but remembered more for his mettle as a leader. He didn't do it the conventional way but the Smith way was more than good enough for Lorgat.
"Leaders are different. Some are upfront, some are quiet. Graeme is Graeme and his record speaks for itself," Lorgat said. "We should take pride in the way he has built this team and the legacy he leaves behind. A lot of the younger players that have come through have certainly drawn comfort from his presence. Sometimes lady luck smiles on people's careers. Saying goodbye at Newlands was an apt end to his formidable career."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent