Graeme Smith retirement

'Smith the greatest Test captain ever' - Kirsten

Nagraj Gollapudi

March 7, 2014

Comments: 135 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Smith and Gary Kirsten pose with the ICC mace, England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 5th day, August 20, 2012
Gary Kirsten on Graeme Smith: "The kind of success he has taken South African cricket to, I would argue that he is the best captain that has ever lived." © Getty Images
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Gary Kirsten, the former South African batsman and coach, has called Graeme Smith the "greatest captain ever" in Test cricket. What instantly struck and stayed with Kirsten, who played his final four Test series under a 22-year-old Smith, was the young captain's credibility as a leader and a genuine feeling for the job. Self-belief, presence, leading from the front, man-management and shielding his players from critics and media were what made Smith his best captain, Kirsten pointed out.

"Is he the greatest captain ever in Test match cricket? In my view he must be," Kirsten told ESPNcricnfo. "I don't think anyone had led as long. We know that. He has taken South Africa to great heights. The kind of success he has had, the kind of success he has taken South African cricket to, I would argue that he is the best captain that has ever lived."

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Smith's endurance as a Test captain was second to none. He lead South Africa in all but the first eight of his 117 Tests, the most in the history of Test cricket. The next best was Australia's Allan Border, who led in 93 matches.

According to Michael Atherton, the former England captain, there is nothing tougher mentally than opening the innings and captaining in Test cricket. Kirsten, a former opener, agreed with Atherton, saying Smith played the dual role without ever showing the stress and strains of the job.

"For Graeme to end up with an average above 48 and then to have the type of leadership success he did have is absolutely a massive achievement," Kisten said. "You look at his record in the fourth innings and his ability to make important contributions. That gave the team a lot of confidence. It gives your team a lot of comfort to know that the captain is walking the talk."

What Kirsten always liked about Smith was that he could trust the captain to stand up for his players. "Having played under him, which I really enjoyed even though he was a young captain at the time, I felt he was believable to me," Kirsten said. "He had credibility in my eyes. Because I knew he would front up to difficult situations."

When Kirsten became South Africa coach, he noticed Smith had become a complete captain. "By that stage he had learned a lot about leadership," Kirsten said. "We always had a good connection and we had an enormous amount of fun over the two-year period we were together leading the team. We were able to tweak a few things and take the performance to even greater levels. We both believed that South Africa could become the No. 1 team in the world."

Ian Chappell, the former Australia captain, differed with Kirsten's opinion. Although he called Smith a "strong leader", Chappell did not rate him high on the tactics ladder. "He was obviously the sort of character who his team-mates would follow, but tactically on the field, I think he was pretty limited and really, I think South Africa should've been looking for another captain quite a few years back, but certainly the leadership side of his captaincy was quite a strong point," Chappell told ESPNcricinfo.

Chappell said the major drawback about Smith's captaincy was that he tended to "sit back". "South Africa's style of play is designed to beat all the teams below them in standard and most of the teams that are level with them in standard, but it will never beat a team that is either absolutely level with them in ability or slightly better. They wait for teams to make mistakes. Now, really good teams don't make mistakes. You got to provoke that. (Alastair) Cook and Smith tend to sit back. They wait for the opposition to stop the run flow and wait for the mistakes. As I said, that won't beat the really good teams, that way of playing cricket."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by NoumenaX on (March 12, 2014, 11:03 GMT)

Having greatest captain and graeme smith next to each other is a huge oxymoron, You could see his lack of captaincy everytime things werent going his way, His win ratio as a captain only has him at 15 th spot with Steve waugh on top. I agree with the fact that certain captains' record does look better than others partly due to having a strong team to lead in the first place. SA was one of the top test nation from his inaugural start as captain and had the ROCK Kallis among others for all those years. To have a win ratio of less than 50% means he lost more than he won with a very decent team on his side is a huge underachievement as since they were basically no 1 test team for the last 7 years as well.

Posted by   on (March 11, 2014, 9:06 GMT)

@Greatest Game You're right. But before Wallaroo came all guns blazing, I too was talking about the theme related to the topic. It was my mistake, I thought he was a south african. If you consider me to be an anti South African, you're wrong. I am a follower of SA rugby for past 10 years and enjoy their rivalry with All Blacks.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 11, 2014, 4:46 GMT)

@Shane Bond. Please, in the name of common decency, do not even suggest that Wallaroo is South African. As Wallaroo writes in his post, "Calling me a Saffa is an insult far worse than the one I inflicted on you lol."

I strongly agree with Wallaroo. He is correct. Calling him a Saffa is an insult to each & every South African. The proud members of the Rainbow Nation have done nothing to warrant such slurs. Africa has neither wallabies nor kangaroos, & certainly no cross-bred mix of the two. We have lions & elephants & giraffe and zebras but we have NO wallaroos lurking about our fine country. Such creatures live in other, less hospitable climes.

It would be greatly appreciated if all antipodeans could restrict their domestic disputes to conversations pertaining to Aus & NZ. If you look carefully, you can see quite clearly that this conversation is about the captaincy of Graeme Smith. The headline "Smith the greatest Test captain ever' - Kirsten" is a really BIG clue.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 11, 2014, 4:44 GMT)

@ SLSup asks "Greatest_Game: What is the "...unique character of the game that is diminished" by comparing how players performances aggregate over the years."

I did not write a thing about "comparing how players performances aggregate over the years" - you did. I wrote about the pointlessness of claiming a "best." As Albert E. taught us, everything is relative. Absolutism is for baseball, or American football, two curses by which I am afflicted due to my current place of residence. but make no mistake I am a Saffa and intensely proud of Smith's HUGE accomplishments. I think of him as 'one of the greatest" ….

As you may notice from the screen name I chose, the GAME is the greatest, but about it's players it seems tawdry to bicker back and forth, claiming one or another the "best" this or "greatest" that….

Honour accomplishment, avoid hyperbole, respect the game.

Posted by   on (March 10, 2014, 10:55 GMT)

@Wallaroo Ha! Who cares about census anyway? It's bound to be affected by population specially Subcontinent. And I didn't came here to inflict "insults" to anyone. Quite kiddish aren't we? I don't care how kiwis living in Australia behave or what you think of them. I have plenty of aussie friends and if someone like you misbehaves, I ain't got a problem. Who cares how you think of us and else? Enjoy.

Posted by wapuser on (March 10, 2014, 9:11 GMT)

For me the best captain should *not* be judged on win/loss and draw ratios. He should be judged on a) his ability to get the most out of his players. b) tactics c) ability to adapt to situations. e) courage f) ability to put his team ahead of his own personal goals. g) ability to teach his team members. I am not sure that most of the captains suggested in this forum have displayed the above qualities. Only players can really identify a good captain, because we do not see what happens behind the scene.

Posted by ArnieRoss on (March 10, 2014, 8:01 GMT)

To suggest that Graeme Smith was the greatest Test captain of all time is patently absurd. The great captains stamped their mark on the game, they made innovations. Smith was typically South African - conservative, captaining by numbers. But he might well have been the greatest batsman of all time - an average of 48 when he could only play on one side of the wicket! Had he been able to play on both sides of the wicket - he might have ended with a Bradman-esque average.

Posted by Sorcerer on (March 10, 2014, 4:51 GMT)

Ironically, by labeling him "the greatest captain of all-time", Kirsten's claim has resulted in a deep incision of the considerable negatives and limitations of Smith's captaincy style and defensive mindset.

Posted by SLSup on (March 9, 2014, 21:44 GMT)

Greatest_Game: What is the "...unique character of the game that is diminished" by comparing how players performances aggregate over the years. Yes I agree it's a bit over-the-top to say Smith is the greatest (or any other skipper for that matter). TO ME it is fair to say Smith has done NO OTHER CAPTAIN HAS EVER DONE. I am not talking about captaining 109 Tests. But assuming captaincy of a major cricketing nation at just 22 when it was beset with conflicting international and domestic crisis and handle all that in the WAY he did and leave at 33 having just led SA's most successful run in its history stretching its top-rankings further away from the competition... I can't think of any captain having done THAT.

I'd say Kirsten only got his timing right but not his footwork and placement. No runs, no point as you said. Dot ball in a Test but Yes some passionate opinions in comments section makes it sound like it's a 20/20 (unwarranted criticism). Haha, I/Chappell. All God's children!

Posted by   on (March 9, 2014, 20:06 GMT)

Smith was clearly a great dominator in one on one series especially test format, amid good resources. As for himself he was confident, warm and cordial and was the best man for the hour, except that he too failed to remove the curse on the CSA when it came to knockout stages of the world cup.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2014, 19:58 GMT)

In all it is unfair to compare one great captain against another. For instance I would never compare Smith with Imran Khan. Both had completely different set of resources but I put Imran ahead for his temperament and will to win. Not naturally very gifted, he worked very hard to attain excellence. He did things (That too repeatedly), that no previous captain had done before him for Pakistan, even come close, including defeating England in England more than one series. As far as Lloyd was concerned he brought up a side that dominated the world, but lets not over look the pace battery that very often bowled bodyline and tormented their opposition with life threatening/Ruthless tactics. Beside that, Lloyd was pretty goofy. Ganguly was spot on with tormenting the opposition with reciprocal sledging even if it was not verbal. But he carried the position very appropriately. Waugh was very good but was supplemented in his natural but efforted intent by great Mcgrath and Warne.

Posted by SLSup on (March 9, 2014, 18:12 GMT)

Biggus: looks like my response to you wasn't published! Keeping it short with an example (to your question): Sobers, Kanhai, Kallicharran, and Murray together lead WI in 135 Tests for a bit more than 20% wins. Lloyd's record was 48+% in 74 Tests bu it was during Viv Richards' tenure WI experienced 54% win ratio (he captained WI in 50 Tests). Hope you get the point, if not Oh Well.

Posted by SLSup on (March 9, 2014, 17:20 GMT)

Pointer to Yasser Iqbal Kidwani: One can be a Chess Master by measurable performances (stats) or BE a professional janitor who plays chess better than a Chess Master but has no measurable performances to back it. Tactics, team-spirit, nurturing and stuff are secondary considerations. Most non-captains have parents at home who do that! Players play hard to stay in the team, not for their captains per se. If they do that's because they want to stay in the team! : )

I agree Smith is above MOST captains as you say but all great captains accomplished an UPWARD TRAJECTORY for their teams that ARE EVIDENTLY MEASURABLE. Some MORE than others, hence these debates. Now guys like Smith & Fleming were also Gentlemen. Would we call Ponting, Waugh, Chappell's, Arjuna, or Jardine such? I think not! In cricket, as in life, being a gentleman should count, too, but it's in the preferential zone that's hard to quantify. Qualify, Yes. Quantify, No.

Posted by Wallaroo on (March 9, 2014, 13:16 GMT)

@Shane Bond LOL, consensus disagrees with you period but if you can't grasp that then that's your problem. Anyway you are entitled to your opinion, but please don't try to influence mine. BTW I'm an Aussie so why would you think I'd want Australia to be beaten. Calling me a Saffa is an insult far worse than the one I inflicted on you lol. Not all Aussies are pigheaded and unable to see beyond the borders of the great southern land. FYI there are plenty of Kiwis living in Australia talking us down so don't expect me to be too supportive of your lot.

Posted by lasfri on (March 9, 2014, 12:06 GMT)

@biggus, @slsup : nice conversation there on stats and their use. sort of is a pointer at our evolution. about 50 years back, such a conversation on say best captains in the ashes would have relied purely on the so called 'subjective' opinion of informed men. today, for looking up on say biff vs flem we can use the excellent cricinfo stats database to couple to the views of kirsten and chappelly. maybe 50 years from now, algorithms and such databases can build up to minimise the value of the expert's opinion to trivial asides. we are already using them for the icc player and team ratings and not relying on a group of icc appointed experts to decide instead. it could be that the 'subjective' is actually our intuition assigning such statistical weights as pointed out by slsup to the relatively non quantifiable (currently) parameters like team spirit. till the algorithms are able to catch up with the processing abilities of our mind, we continue to rely on chappelly & co.

Posted by Biggus on (March 9, 2014, 8:31 GMT)

@SLSup:- Vis-a-vis your builder or inheritor variable, how precisely do you intend to determine the percentage of wins of the team a captain inherits? For what time frame or number of games should one make the assessment? What if there have been team changes over that time? Already one has to make choices that could have a significant effect on the result. This is not serious analysis, it's an amusement, a trifle, that has no claim on accurately reflecting any inherent truth. Forget giving up on me, there's nothing in what you've written that would cause me to take it seriously.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2014, 7:37 GMT)

Records and statistics put smith above most of the test captains. whether it was because of his abilities or just because of the combination he had got is something which can be argued. Lets say- He was one of the best captains in measurable terms.

Posted by SLSup on (March 9, 2014, 7:35 GMT)

Shane_Bond/Biggus: I ref before to an algorithmic study I said I "somewhat agree with" (not fully) which listed it's findings for best captains as follows: Waugh, Smith, Ponting, G/Chappell, Benaud, Lloyd, I/Chappell, Border, Dhoni, and Hussain. In my analysis I considered them along with Fleming, Ganguly, Imran, Mahela, Viv Richards and others. Here's what I find statistically undeniable:

1) % of wins: Ponting, Waugh, Richards. 2) % of win/draws (less losses): Waugh, Richards, Lloyd. 3) Building a successful team (taking team to 50% or more win ratio): Richards, Taylor, I/Chappell. 4) Runs contributed to team as captain: G/Chappell, Mahela, Imran (+wickets).

Isn't it interesting how someone NO ONE seem to refer to comes up more frequently in 1, 2, 3 that are most relevant? - Viv Richards.

Sorry Bondy, Flemming FEATURES among greats but comes in at 14 for me. Also, Jayasuriya is better than Arjuna while Dhoni's better than Ganguly.

That's all I got to say. : )

Posted by wapuser on (March 9, 2014, 7:25 GMT)

@Shane Bond. thanks for responding 2 my question. i appreciate your views because u have played with him and should know what makes a good captain. I am not a kiwi supporter, but i appreciate it would be a hard job 2 captain NZ, cause it does not have the resources that Aus, Eng, SA and India have.

Posted by SLSup on (March 9, 2014, 6:42 GMT)

Biggus: You ask me how I award "points" to W/L/D (when I suggested no such thing) then suggest a way to do so only to attack it calling it Subjective! Huh? TO ME % of wins + % of wins/draws considered separately would do. No need to award points. %s represent a record/reality. It is easy to decide a Builder vs Inheritor: once you accept a successful record as over 50% of Tests played (by team) then a captain who inherits a 50% prior team record is an Inheritor while a captain who takes over an unsuccessful team (win ratio of less than 50%) to lead it beyond the 50% threshold is a Builder. Example: Taylor/Chappell (Ian) were Builders with Chappell (Greg), Border, Waugh, Ponting were Inheritors. AGAIN, no need for "points"! What's with these points? : ) As for contributory % of a captain with bat/ball - this MATTERS and its in their RECORDS (Stats?) As for team spirit, tactics, and nurturing - top captains rarely lack them. Some more attacking than others, that's all. Cont...

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 9, 2014, 6:18 GMT)

I'm surprised at Kirsten - all this talk of "greatest ever" is pointless. Smith does have a great record. Acknowledge him for that because he deserves it. Claiming him to be "the greatest," an unsubstantiated opinion at best, simply invites unneeded, and ofter unwarranted, criticism.

All this talk of "best attack" and "best team" and best <insert choice here> diminishes the unique character of the game. Smith was one of crickets finest servants. Leave it at that.

(And PLEASE don't ask Ian Chappell for any opinion. That is like beating on a hornet's nest!)

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 9, 2014, 6:08 GMT)

@ matt.au comments that "Chappell was a fantastic skipper and extremely courageous... He is one of the very best skippers we've ever had."

On the 69/70 tour - which I watched - Aus were clearly worn out from touring. No excuses for 66/67 though!

Chappell's record as captain is excellent - never lost a series. Of 30 matches he lost five -16.6%, drew 10 - 33.3%, & won15 - 50%. Drawing 33% matches suggests he was more defensive than generally acknowledged! His batting ave of 42.42 is weak. His nemesis was SA: 18 innings, ave 16.94, highest score 49, and 4 ducks!

Smith has a record of 48.6% wins, 26.6% losses, & 24.8% drawn. Chappell didn't win more than Smith: he lost less, & drew more. Smith's batting ave of 48.25 is better.

My point is that Chappel blatantly trashes both Smith AND SA, but was no better than Smith at winning, or batting! He has no record against Smith, but does against SA, & it stinks: ave 16.94. Against SA he could not walk the walk, but he sure can talk the talk!

Posted by   on (March 9, 2014, 6:02 GMT)

Last but not the least you don't have to disrespect my country if you don't agree with me. Have a nice rest and think about it. It's not hard.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2014, 5:41 GMT)

@Wallaroo Wow. Thats all I can say. Ugly headed Kiwi and all. Haha. You think Fleming was made captain at 30? Fleming came in at 22 years of age same as Biff. And have you seen period from 1994-1997? You think it's a piece of cake to captain NZ? There's LITERALLY NO INTERST of cricket in public. On any day Fleming was a greater tactician and strategist than biff. I like Biff. His batting style not so great but superbly effective but he was not a great captain. Funnily enough you couldn't beat Australia without Steyn. Cruel, isn't it? We punched well above our weight throught Fleming's era. For your information I voted for Steve Waugh. If "running away from the job" is your criteria, then Vettori and Pollock had even more turbulent times. I would rate even Pollock a courageous and brave to take captaincy at that time. Your turn, take off "rose tinted glasses" mate. My problem was that Fleming wasn't even talked about. So I wrote it.

Posted by Wallaroo on (March 9, 2014, 5:07 GMT)

@Shane Bond here's another point for you to consider. Seen the movie Jobs, who was the better leader Jobs or Woz, better strategist? Jobs. Who was the brain behind the Apple Mac, better tactically? Woz So judging Jobs on tactics alone would have placed him well down the ladder as an entrepreneur, however on leadership and strategy he was a genus taking a company against the odds to the top. Chappell misses this point in his assessment, he is not Australia's most intellectually gifted talent. Biff's role was strategy and leadership both of which he performed extremely well. BTW look at the voters log - I voted for Waugh who is IMO the greatest but that's my opinion (If they had Warne I would have voted for him as the greatest non captain captain that should have been). Biff is way ahead of Flemming as voted by public consensus.

Posted by Wallaroo on (March 9, 2014, 4:42 GMT)

@Shane Bond. One swallow does not make a summer. Flemming was and will never be considered even close to the greatness and caliber of Graeme Smith. 10 years ago Smith was only starting out as one of the youngest captains ever, taking on a role in a team most would have walked away from. Anyway you can'y argue with majority, consensus is therefore by far the best barometer, and while there are some that may consider Flemming a great, the vast majority don't. Read the posts around all the discussions here. Poor Kiwi can't allow anyone else to be better, once again the tiny island country chip has raised her ugly head. Don't bother to let facts get in the way of your, growing taller daily, story.

Posted by   on (March 9, 2014, 2:43 GMT)

for me its generally the NZ captains I admire the most. Despite limited talent they tend to give the strong teams a run for their money and never give up. It takes strong leadership to do that. I mean beating Aus in hobart despite the massive gap between sides on paper.Hardly any of the NZ bowlers are rated highly on icc rankings but as a bowling unit they don't concede much - can't remember many games where they conceded over 400. Currently clarke is the best test captain currently. Odi's probably mahela. All time greats probably clive loud and imran.

Posted by SLSup on (March 8, 2014, 19:00 GMT)

Response to Biggus: your response is along the lines I expected, some of what you say is valid and I'll submit a post on it later today. For now I must mow the lawn or the 10th Anniversary coming up won't go down well. JK. But seriously, why do people commit to each other for LIFE and then start counting the years? Makes no sense. Anyways, it seems to me you need to look up subjective & objective first. All that was said ends with a suggestion from you that what YOU THINK must be right. And that is your OBJECTIVE view? I am going to do a comparative (including Flemming cos I like what Shane_Bond said) and post it with facts and reasons for you to look BEFORE you leap. I am not interested in winning arguments but it is good to debate and consider these things. If you disagree with my NEXT post I give up! : ) That is, I give up on you, unless you can come up with FACTS to disprove what I say. I'll be stupid to reject facts.

Posted by Satish.V on (March 8, 2014, 17:56 GMT)

There are so many facets of captaincy- results,man management, on field tactics, longevity, grooming young talent. If one were holistically evaluate Smith's captaincy, I dont think he would qualify as the greatest ever.He was the longest serving captain & had a team that would jump off a cliff for him. Bit apart from that, there is very little you could say about his captaincy. As a matter of fact, all the players listed in the list would excelled at one aspect or the other. Imran & Ganguly had the charisma & groomed world class talent. Mark Taylor & Brearley were master tacticians, Lloyd was brilliant at managing so many superstars.Waugh & Ponting had the results.It is a futile exercise to pick the "greatest captain" of all time when you have so many dimensions to captaincy.No captain ticked all the boxes.

Posted by nade123 on (March 8, 2014, 17:40 GMT)

There is no simple formula or stat to pick one as the greatest captain. Imran and Border built winning teams from absolute terrible situations when thy took over. They took their side to greatest heights during an era when Cricket was far more competitive, especially tests.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 17:34 GMT)

Has to be Mike Brearley. His captaincy was so good it got him selected.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 16:42 GMT)

Sourav arguably had the weakest pace bowling attack among these greatest captains of world cricket. Despite that his Team India competed at the world level like no one before and after him. He is a strong contender for being the greatest captain of all times. Please vote for him.

Posted by wapuser on (March 8, 2014, 16:08 GMT)

smith the iron man of cricket. but nowhere near being a great captain. with team he has had he should have achieved a lot more. but like chappel said his tactics were limited and just waits for teams to make a mistake. or it is steyn who just comes in rips the opposition apart. if u call handing the ball to the best bowler in the world being a great captain then we have great captains in each country. sa should have accomplished a lot more but u know the saying captain is only good as its team. for sa it implies that the team was as good as its captain. good but not great.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 15:40 GMT)

he is no where the greatest.witg such a class team he could not win the series against Australia.and Australia had a very new team compared to SA very average captain. no where near Ponting and Waugh.and I am Srilankan

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 14:02 GMT)

@Wallaroo What? Rose tinted glasses? You made me laugh so hard. You know what, I would suggest you to have a look at the iron fist regime of Glenn Turner and the timeline of 1994-1997. Greame Smith had a bunch of highly talented players like Gibbs, Ntini, pollock, kallis. That way Pollock had even more turbulent time after Cronje. Huh. Saffas were in top 4 of all forms of game with a "settled" team when Smith came not Fleming. As far a sI remember 6 in tests and 5 in odi's. Fleming had his problems with bat and often undershot but I bet it, he would have played a few. I am sure you remember 2004 series in NZ? Flem vs Biff?

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 13:53 GMT)

@Simon Muir Why shouldn't I? I have seen Crowe, Waugh, Cronje and all captain but none of them apart from Waugh caught imagination like Fleming did. Both were master tactician. Fleming came in charge at a turbulent time and left team stable only to be unstable again. It requires something to captain NZ. Injuries, NZ criclet board and their rifts with players union and all. Fleming led us to 3 good WC outings and 3 test ranking. It's not only me, you may ask anyone who has seen him.

Posted by Shajab on (March 8, 2014, 13:46 GMT)

Sourav ganguly is the best captan ever bcs ganguly has very good atitude as a leadership king of india (bengal tiger).....

Posted by rajcl on (March 8, 2014, 13:05 GMT)

i dont no he is good or bad but he is suceed captain than any one, i can say only one thing always ours is better than others, ( ofcourse in my point ganguly is best ) but give respect what he done , he is no more captain for SA lets cheeeeeeeeeer him , all the best for ur future ,,,,,,,,,,,,from INDIAN fan

Posted by eggyroe on (March 8, 2014, 12:18 GMT)

If you had the greatest test match team of the last 70 years,none of the listed players would even make the side let alone be captain.

Posted by MonkeyBooBoo on (March 8, 2014, 12:12 GMT)

To the bloke who commented that we Aussies are jealous of Smith because he ended our domination of the sport.. Got news for you. We(as in Australia) ended it by the retirements of a few blokes who could play the game pretty well around 2007/8. Some people should stop and think.....it's not hard.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 11:50 GMT)

one word..CLIVE...end of story

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 11:45 GMT)

Gary is being rather generous on his former teammate. He is no way the greatest captain ever. Statistically maybe yes, but given the kind of team he had , anyone else would have just bulldozed oppositions. The "greatest" captain will not bail out when within 20 runs of victory with about 10 overs and three wickets left- as SA did recently against India.

Posted by wapuser on (March 8, 2014, 10:54 GMT)

@Mr Shane Bond. Please, I would really like to know why you suggest S Flemming.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 10:30 GMT)

all the ausies are jealous of him bcz he ended their unstoppable reign. ... tactically & statistically he is the best test captain by some margin.... yeah he was playing the waiting game but he always found the other way if it didnt work.., so it's sad that people are not recognizing his contribution to cricket. ,, there were many test captains but none were better then biff

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 10:27 GMT)

@SLSup No need to pull my namesake here, lol. But if you want to do like that. How about Fleming the captain who took over as a captain with team at no. 6 in tests and written off (like 2010). He gelled the team and led to an excellent period from 1999 to 2005 in tests and 1998 to 2007 in odi's. We had victories in England, West Indies, a draw against invincible Waugh's aussies in australia and regularly competed well away and sort of became unbeatables at home (sort of). In odi's we were always a top 3 or 4 and went in semis of 1999, 2007 and had it not been kenya forfeiture who knows what would have happened. Fleming the batsman often undershot but from 2003 to 2007 had an average about 50 with substantial scores vs Sri Lanka, pakistan, south africa. Cricket ain't the favoured sport here. Apart from that, there was no greater tactician (noted by Waugh, Smith, Swann, Crowe, Jayawardene, Wright.....) I have seen. The way he cracked Martyn in 2002/03 was legendary stuff.

Posted by Wallaroo on (March 8, 2014, 10:13 GMT)

Shane bond, please elaborate on Stephen Flemming being a great captain. What a joke he doesn't feature on this scale. Fact is if Graeme Smith had been a Kiwi he would have captained NZ, if Stephen Flemming had been a South African he may not even have made the team.

Take off your rose tinted glasses people and read this again, there are some merits in what Kirsten has said. Also one has to remember he captained against the odds. His youth, affirmative action, low morale from a cheat, media abuse, etc, etc. Credit must go where credit is due, no Aussie, Kiwi or pom captain has has the odds so heavily stacked against them, would they have handled it and produced the same or better results, we'll never know. Next time you judge first look at the merits and the basis for the accolades and how those compare.

Posted by Mervo on (March 8, 2014, 9:33 GMT)

Not really. He was strong and charismatic but tactically not particularly gifted. Ian Chappell, Steve Waugh, Clive Worrell, Ray Illingworth all were well ahead s captains tactically against the strongest competition, often with young untested players in their own teams. SA should concentrate more on their fielding inadequacies. Winning abroad is the real test of a captain. Something India could not even do in New Zealand.

Posted by Ahsan_Shere on (March 8, 2014, 9:24 GMT)

I would say one of the better. The Australians, Steve Waugh & Ricky Ponting, Englishman Mike Brearley & West Indian Sir Clive Lloyd are strong contenders.

Posted by Biggus on (March 8, 2014, 9:24 GMT)

@SLSup:- A) How will you award points for win/loss/draw? 2/0/1? Why not 3/0/1? B) Builder of inheritor? OK, how precisely do you intend to quantify this? 10 points? 1000? For what? Is every captain 100% a 'builder' or an 'inheritor'? How will you weight whatever points you decide to award for the unquantifiable builder or inheritor tag against whatever points you've awarded for A)? Already in trying to dovetail A) and B) into a meaningful metric you're deeply into completely subjective territory that cannot claim to be anything other than your version of the truth, and we haven't considered other unquantifiable things such as contribution or otherwise to, for instance, 'team spirit', 'tactical ability' or 'optimum nurturing of talent'. It's the same old story, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Statistical analysis of captaincy founders on the relatively subjective nature of the input data, you only include pure data and then it's inadequate.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 9:18 GMT)

no he is not.imran khan is the greatest according to me,how great as a captain you are also depend upon how a good team you have and i think smith goted the great player to work with them

Posted by Digimont on (March 8, 2014, 9:06 GMT)

Sorry Gary Kirsten, but you clearly know less about cricket (particularly captaincy) than I gave you credit for. Sure, he's a great batsman and led well by example, sure he was a great diplomat under difficult circumstances, but tactically, not a whole lot going on up there. I would have thought that giving the fielding side a tactical edge was #1 on the list of important captaincy qualities..

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 9:06 GMT)

I am all for praising Smith and no doubt he has done very well for SA and taken them to new heights. However, to say he is the greatest ever test captain is surely untrue.

I mean looking through history you have leaders like, Clive Lloyd, Alan Border, Imran Khan, Steve Waugh and then you have Greame Smith. I don't think he is anywhere near the same league as them. I don't think he is even the greatest SA captain. I would rate both Cronje, and Pollock above Smith. However While I can see how a case can be made for him as the greatest SA captain, Smith falls some way short of being the greatest ever.

Posted by SLSup on (March 8, 2014, 9:01 GMT)

Response to Biggus: Statistics provide a more objective view compared to leaving them out for a more subjective view. Once you get into subjective opinions you have slipped into a preferential zone. You cannot determine a COMPARATIVE study subjectively! Only statistics allow us to compare and present an objective view.

Now, SOME prefer to cherry-pick stats to PAINT a picture. That is something I object to because you compare players based on what IS - not what might have been or you THINK IS. All comparisons must be done based on facts. There is a reason why a promising, prospective captain once given an opportunity sometimes must give way to someone else once his results show poor stats. Great captains have great stats. One doesn't have to believe in algorithms to know the list of 10 captains listed there were great! They just need to know their cricket.

But that's not how YOU see it. And that's alright.

Posted by SLSup on (March 8, 2014, 8:47 GMT)

Shane_Bond: Let me see... how should I put it. If your namesake kept bowling for NZ for 10 or 12 years then whoever captained NZ in that decade would have made a great captain! : )

All great great captains had great bowling attacks that worked in tandem. Lloyd had Roberts, Holding, Croft, Garner, Clarke, and Marshall. There was Ponting with McGrath, Lee, Clarke, Gillespie, Warne, and MacGill; During England's great run Illingworth had Snow, Brown, Underwood, and Knight et al; SA's Smith had Steyn, Philander, Morkel, and Kallis & others.

What if we look at stats for Fleming compared with the rest on the following counts: A) success rate in terms of wins/losses/draws B) If he a builder or an inheritor C) % of runs contributed to NZ successes D) relative transformation of NZ under him compared to other captains when they took over E) Longest unbeaten run compared to others F) NZ rankings since he took over compared to others G) Overall % of runs to team compared to others (?)

Posted by stevehobart1 on (March 8, 2014, 8:26 GMT)

@dunger.bob You've hit the nail on the head regarding the recent vacuum. SA has reached their echelon while the other cricketing forces have not been strong. Should Australia continue to climb in the near future it may well also be over the top of other teams (SA, India, England) going into decline. If world cricket was presently strong (which it isn't) the current Aussie team would have no right to perform as well as they have this summer.

Posted by Biggus on (March 8, 2014, 8:14 GMT)

@SLSup:- There's no inherent truth in a captaincy analysis algorithm. How to weight the variables? Are some more important than others, or do you consider them all equal? What units will you chose to quantify your assessments? Any choice you make will be subjective and will highlight one's prejudices. Dunger.bob is correct. Any attempt at statistical analysis of captaincy will be eminently contestable.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 8:10 GMT)

Virat Kohli would go on 2 bcum the greatest ever Test skipper in the History of World Cricket by winning serieses in England 4--1 or 5--0 in SA 3--0 or 2--1 & in Australia 2--1 or 3--1 & in India 5--0 !!!!!!!!!!

Posted by SLSup on (March 8, 2014, 8:03 GMT)

Response to dunger.bob: (scratching my head). There is a difference between setting up an algorithm to suite a theory and using existing stats to observe one. We are not talking about climate change here?

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 8:00 GMT)

South Africans love claiming they are the best in the world. Maybe it helps cover up their inadequacies, especially in the field of comparative analysis.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 7:36 GMT)

No mention or voting for Stephen Fleming as the greatest ever captain? At least some recognition folks?

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 8, 2014, 7:27 GMT)

@ SLSup : Wrong and wrong. OOOh, an algorithm. Let's all bend down and pray. I could write an algorithm to 'prove' that Kim Hughes is the worlds greatest captain. .. The fact is that Smith was an excellent captain but too damn scared to have a go to be the best of all time.

Posted by eggyroe on (March 8, 2014, 7:23 GMT)

With regard to your poll of the greatest Test Match Captain,there is not much of a choice considering there have been since 1877 - 306 Test Match Captains. Your "Someone Else" Selection seem's to me somewhat downgrading to some of those in this section, compared to some of those in the named section

Posted by Cricketlov. on (March 8, 2014, 7:11 GMT)

Why all are you guys arguing about Smith's Captaincy, He was made captain at the age of 22 with limited resources,just think about it. He does not have players like ponting, Waugh or sourav or other great captains have. lets face it Almost a decade, is not a funny thing, guys. Wining a world cup does qualify for a successful captain, not a great captain. His aggression, eagerness to win a game, born to be a leader( forgot the right definition) and many more convince me as great leader( just for me). who has the gut like smith did with a broken hand.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 6:37 GMT)

Smith cannot be the greatest captain because his entire gameplan was centered around "not losing" series rather than "winning" series. So even though statistically, he may look good, in spirit, he can't compare to Lloyd, Ponting, Waugh etc...

Posted by Biggus on (March 8, 2014, 6:36 GMT)

@Charles Li:- Wasn't the case when I posted it. Anyway I'd rate Taylor, Border and Chappelli more highly as Australian captains. I could have captained Steve Waugh's team, it was just that good.

Posted by wapuser on (March 8, 2014, 6:02 GMT)

Smith is one of my favorite players. But I don't rate him as a really good captain. He was clueless against aus and Clarke in the recent test series. Steve Waugh and Geoff Howarth are the best in my opinion.

Posted by Sorcerer on (March 8, 2014, 5:47 GMT)

Smith - greatest-ever skipper? This must be the greatest-ever cricket joke!

How about an all-time great cricketer, with a proven never-say-die spirit, who engendered the maximum from his team and motivated to the hilt, welded a team of internecine talent, who led by example, and who was a master strategist and statesman. Yes, the one and only, Imran Khan.

Posted by SLSup on (March 8, 2014, 5:01 GMT)

A word on Chappell's take on Smith: there is something almost evil about someone less talented and capable (therefore less qualified) to negatively comment on someone more talented, capable, and greater.

I somewhat agree with an algorithmic study done in 2012 to figure the top 10 captains. The outcome was Waugh, Smith, Ponting, Chappell (Greg), Benaud, Lloyd, Chappell (Ian), Border, Dhoni, and Hussain. Let me hone-in on the top TWO: Waugh & Smith.

Waugh inherited an AUS side that was well set as an experienced understudy under Border & Taylor who rebuilt and established the side '80s to '90s. Smith inherited a SA side beset with conflicting issues with little to no experience at just 22! Smith retires at 33 while Waugh became captain at 34. Of the captains with longest unbeaten runs in Tests in HISTORY the top four are Lloyd, Illingworth, Ponting, and Smith. SA's finest run was 10 wins in 15 Test from Jan '12 to Feb '13 and Chappell thinks Smith should have left years ago? Wow!

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (March 8, 2014, 4:02 GMT)

cont... AB was just that-leader of men-was needed by Aus cricket at the time.He put found. stone for argu. the greatest domination by a team in the game-and legacy for self.No.2-S Waugh.No.3-Ponting.No.4-M Clark and G Smith @ no.5.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 3:58 GMT)

Poll should be between South African captains, no point compare between world's best captains. Let him be the best among his own country

Posted by stevehobart1 on (March 8, 2014, 3:58 GMT)

@ twistedseatbelt I agree that G Smith will be viewed in the upper echelon of past captains, but to suggest he will be remembered as the best ever? He really was given a poor list of resources: Gibbs, Amla, Kirsten, Kallis, AB de Villiers, Boucher, S Pollock, Steyne, Morkel, Philander. South Africa's racial quotas were removed back in 2007, but I'm keen to know which non-whites were such a burden to Smith's captaincy.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 3:57 GMT)

Obviously he never saw Mike Brearley play. So good that his incompetent play could be ignored completely because his tactical nouse was truly awe inspiring.

Posted by cricketstats on (March 8, 2014, 3:49 GMT)

Hey people,you all have not fit it to mention the candidate best to be given this accolade is the late great Frank Worrell, a perfect gentleman if ever there was one.He possesed great people skills and could motivate players who in turn performed for the love of Frank,you all can ask Sobers,Kanhai,Hall and Gibbs who will testify the greatness of their captain.He was also a fantastic batsman being one arm of the THREE W's and a good all-rounder.Thats my captain as the greatest leader by taking a team of cricketers with raw talents and made that team the greatest of the 1960s'.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (March 8, 2014, 3:47 GMT)

G Smith has been a good capt. of a good team.From historic perspective he takes no.5.No.1 is Border-He too had a merely good team-unlike 1s with all time super stars of his successors-with good young talent-few went on to greatness-needing strong leader.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 3:39 GMT)

it's normal that when someone retires everybody is saying he is the best ever produced by nation or world. dont be such limited Mr. Kirsten. be realistic.. u know the truth. If u want to appreciate him tell something true, bcos lot of good thing r there about him, without telling lies. thank you

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 3:25 GMT)

Longevity doesn't always mean greatest. Most runs/wickets/wins doesn't mean greatest either. In fact, not only is Smith far from the greatest captain of all time he wasn't even the best captain in the series.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 3:20 GMT)

@Biggus, if you scroll down, you must just see one Steve Waugh who has 18.70% of the votes.

Posted by stevehobart1 on (March 8, 2014, 3:19 GMT)

I feel Kirsten's comments are somewhat clouded by the emotion of the present situation. If captaincy can be defined as growing a team and influencing a group to perform at their absolute potential, where expectations are exceeded and the sum becomes much greater than the parts, Allan Border has my vote, followed by Clive Lloyd. Allan Border was not a natural leader and was thrust into the captaincy when the Australian side was at it's lowest ebb. He grew into the position, and leading by force of will and example, he took them to the threshold of world-champion status. From very humble beginnings and several consecutive series losses. Border took Australia to the World Cup win in 1987, regained the Ashes two years later, and came within one ball of conquering the world beating West Indies in 1993 (4th Test lost by 1 run). All very pivotal moments that allowed Taylor, Waugh and Ponting to follow in Border's footsteps.

Posted by CSpiers on (March 8, 2014, 2:50 GMT)

Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor were both terrific captains, nice to see Steve up the top of the poll now.

Posted by getsetgopk on (March 8, 2014, 2:33 GMT)

No offence to Garry but he's mistaken here. If longevity alone can make you the 'best ever' then Tendulkar would be better than bradman, which clearly is not the case. Look at Imran Khan, he was a 4 in 1 player, best bowler, best batsman, excellent fielder and a captain of a side such as Pakistan, which in itself is the most difficult job ever. I have never seen a player with better bowling, batting stats than Imran to have captained a cricket team to this day.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 2:29 GMT)

Fleming, Lloyd, Taylor, Hansie, Ranatunga, Ganguly.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 1:59 GMT)

Greatest captain? Oh pleasseeeee. Even Clarke completely out thought him in this series. Get a grip Kisten

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 8, 2014, 0:57 GMT)

What I'm about to say isn't actually about Smith so I'm posting in the wrong article, but still, I feel compelled to say it. It's about SA's current tremendous run. There's something at play here that I haven't seen mentioned before but seems blindingly obvious to me. Here goes: South Africa inherited a power vacuum and it wasn't created solely by the Aussies losing their grip either. During the Aussies time there were at least 3 other very good teams running around. India with Tend, Dravid, Laxmann, Sehwag and Harby Singh were a brilliant side. Pakistan with Waquar, Wasim and Ahktar were an awesome bowling side and then there was South Africa with Donald, Kallis (the younger) Kirsten, Pollock etc who were also very, very good. .. 3 of these sides declined at pretty much the same time. England moved into number #1 briefly but were never good enough to defend it. That's when SA took over. .. Who have they had to beat to stay there? nobody much. The rest of us have been rubbish.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (March 8, 2014, 0:56 GMT)

By looking at the voting. This displays more the age of the voters and their geography rather than their understanding of cricket history. However, Imran Khan was a great captain and is up there but in my opinion doesn't surpass Clive Lloyd. For the Aussies; in my opinion Mark Taylor, Ian Chappell and Richie Benaud were greater captains than Steve Waugh. Steve inherited a great side, the others helped create them.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 0:52 GMT)

Just 2.69% of the votes for Flemming? What are the voters thinking?

Posted by heathrf1974 on (March 8, 2014, 0:51 GMT)

The greatest captain in my opinion is Clive Lloyd, who united a divided West Indian team and gave them self-belief and stability to become an unbeatable force.

Posted by creekeetman on (March 8, 2014, 0:12 GMT)

I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, even when they're talking absolute rubbish... even Clarke is a better captain, and I've barely scratched the surface.

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 8, 2014, 0:11 GMT)

Smith is more than likely the best captain South Africa ever had but I can't believe he's the best captain of all time and all countries. He was just a bit too stodgy for my liking. ... It's all completely subjective and there's no real way to determine it mathematically. There's more to captaincy than mere win/loss ratios.

@ Albie Hanekom: South Africa did not dominate for 8 years. They built themselves into a team that was super-hard to defeat but they never really dominated. Not unless the meaning of the word 'dominate' has changed recently. The Windies dominated for 20 years, Aust for 12. South Africa were (and still are) hard to beat but they rarely dominate. Also, not too many Aussies dispute your #1 ranking. You've given yourselves that handy buffer and that's to be admired. We have to keep winning for god knows how long (given there's not much Test cricket on the horizon this year) and you guys have to avoid losing in the same period. Fair enough too.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 23:12 GMT)

Brainvin, Cronje was a 'good captain' because he was an encyclopaedia on how much to bribe each player. So let's put aside that crook once and for all. He was a disgrace to cricket and to the face of the earth.

Posted by bundybear55 on (March 7, 2014, 22:55 GMT)

Ian Chappell may be right about Smith tactically, but the reality of captaining a SA sporting team in the post apartheid era means a captain has to be much more than merely tactically astute, they require many more facets to their leadership and that is where Graeme Smith stands apart. The Hansie Cronje affair could so easily have sent SA cricket down the gurgler. Morale was at an all time low, political interference was at an all time high, trust was non-existent - Cronje divided cricket and the nation. For a 22 year old to step into the breech and lead his team through a minefield of quotas, boardroom shenanigans, player disaffection (KP, Trott, et al) and public expectation to where this team is today is nothing short of remarkable. He may not be the greatest 'captain', but he is certainly the greatest leader the game has seen. Only Imran's achievements with Pakistan come close to what Smith had to deal with. To the BIFF man, we salute you. SA Cricket will forever be in your debt.!!

Posted by Buggsy on (March 7, 2014, 22:48 GMT)

Ganguly at no. 1! He only took India to their absolute lowest, but whatever.

Posted by MarinManiac on (March 7, 2014, 22:45 GMT)

Greatest Test captains? Aussies -- are people forgetting Don Bradman? Chappelli himself. Riche Benaud. England: Douglas Jardine. Len Hutton. Ray Illingworth. Michael Vaughan. India: Ajit Wadekar. West Indies: Viv Richards. Richie Richardson. This list is a bit inadequate....

Posted by criclover112 on (March 7, 2014, 21:34 GMT)

All these polls will be skewed in favour of Indian players due to India's large population. The larger number of Indian fans will come and select the best captain, allrounder, bowler etc on nationalistic lines. That is why on the above poll Ganguly is leading ahead of the likes of Clive Lloyd and Imran Khan. As for Graeme Smith, the greatest test captain ever, the less said the better.

Posted by avmd on (March 7, 2014, 21:32 GMT)

There could be a healthy discussion about the best test captain, after Imran Khan.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 20:16 GMT)

the best ever...is that a joke...A great captain that lead by example no doubt. tactically he was awful. Whenever there were a few 4's hit everyone would go back to the fence. He captained a very successful team with a lot of stars, but so did Ricky Ponting and he wasn't a great captain either. My grandma could have captain the recent Sth African team and Australia of the 90's and they would have won.

Guys like Stephen Fleming and Michael Clarke are tactically streets ahead. Smith just had more talent on his team than those 2.

Posted by eggyroe on (March 7, 2014, 20:11 GMT)

No mention of Clive Lloyd then,probably to far in the past,and as for Sir Donald Bradman what can I say apart from exceptional captains of exceptional teams who did choke when the going got tough

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 19:13 GMT)

Still remember when Smith was not picked up in SA World Cup squad and he bashed 233* in test match and when SA knocked out of World Cup and He came in ODI team as Captian!! These guys are special. He earned his place. Respect Saurav Ganguly, Steve Waugh, Ponting, Heath Streak, Dravid, Sangakara, Nasir Hussain, Gilchrist are some other players whom I have watched playing and respect a lot!

Posted by brainvin on (March 7, 2014, 18:24 GMT)

Hansie was the greatest SA captain n one of the best which made him such a popular personality, even Bob Woolmer had told he had never seen a captain who could manage the players both on and off the field like Hansie. Hansie would always be remembered as the best captain which even Kirsten would know at the bottom of his heart as most of his memorable performances came during Hansie's reign as skipper.

Posted by Biggus on (March 7, 2014, 18:08 GMT)

Well, I guess that settles it. Apparently the best captain of all time is Sourav Ganguly followed by Graeme Smith. The poll has spoken.......

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 16:40 GMT)

why no one talk abt Arjuna Ranatunga?

Posted by ac_Indian on (March 7, 2014, 16:38 GMT)

Very well played Greame for all those years. Congratulations on a great career and good luck for the future.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 16:37 GMT)

its hard to compare captains or leaders in that sense. one should evaluate the impact of the leader in the group, does influence the the group perform over their potential, and how he leads the team to handle pressure ? in that sense, Smith is not the greatest.. by far he had the luxury of a potent team when they beat everyone all over the world. Even Ponting, Waugh enjoyed leading best players of Australia ever produced in their teams. Someone like Ganguly or Imrann Khan are far more better leaders than everyone in the list. Perhaps not in the terms of tactics, but they bought character to the team and set a new path. BDW I'm Sri Lankan.. and I don't like Ganguly for his arrogance.. but in terms of impact.. he is not should be overlooked from any other in the list..

Posted by Greatest_Lame on (March 7, 2014, 16:07 GMT)

Everyone will have different set of standards regarding who is the best captain. There is no standard metric here. Some will value tactical astuteness more, whereas some will point to match/series results. Some of us like aggressive captains who risk everything for a win whereas some will prefer a safety first approach which leads to less loses. It really depends on what you, as a person, value more. It is very well for Chappel to judge someone on his criteria but there will always be different opinions.

Also we need to make a distinction between a great captain and a great leader here. According to me, a great captain, like a good manager, has to utilize his resources, good or bad, to the fullest extent. Whereas a great leader, like a great CEO/President, has to inspire every single member of the team to perform well beyond their natural abilities to achieve something previously thought to be impossible. Rarely a person can be both great leader and a great captain.

Posted by Baiy on (March 7, 2014, 15:51 GMT)

Great stories being said of a great athlete, come leader and ultimately role model. SA had a difficult history - sporting role models seem to bring the nation together - I believe even N Mandela knew this. Looking at the demographics in the stadium, dressing rooms, commentaries - G Smith and SA team are doing something right. Perhaps it is wrong to blindly assume all is well in all aspects of society but it shows, great role models, great leaders add to the fabric of society. In my eyes - you are one such leader. Observing the way your team mates respect you can be seen all across SA and the world. You seem to have an ideology of what is possible, your character and actions proved to others that ideas can be translated to action. As a non-SA I personally feel: In cricket you contributed with a hard but fair never say die attitude with great talent to match; In life you have contributed to the SA and world multicultural fabric. Africa & the World needs more GS - you unite East and West.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 15:33 GMT)

no Smith wasn't the greatest though he was statistically the most successful... in fact had SA lacked the pacers that they had over the last 15 years Smith would have been only as good as dhoni... I would rate Clarke better than smith because even when he was under immense pressure in the Indian tour he stuck to his aggressive style and he does even now... he is the sort of pro active captain that can force results... SA imbibed that never to lose skill only after say 2005 when the present team began getting formed...

Posted by Matt.au on (March 7, 2014, 15:25 GMT)

Posted by Greatest_Game Aus's team was far below SA in standard, & was awful.

True that.

That Australian side had perhaps the worst bowling attack I've ever seen. No disrespect to Graham McKenzie who at that stage was well past his best.

The Australians' went straight to SA from a 5 test tour (plus warm ups etc) of India. Going wearily from dustbowls to greentops was always going to be a disaster for any team that faced that great SA side. The sub standard Australian side had no hope.

None of the batsmen could come to terms with terrific fast bowling on quick decks after months of playing on dustbowls.

I'm pretty certain more than half that side never or hardly played for Australia again. Understandable with the emergance of Lillee, G.Chappell, Marsh and co.

I. Chappell was a fantastic skipper and extremely courageous. Hooking the WI quicks with no helmet, with those old bats, was something to watch. He is one of the very best skippers we've ever had.

Posted by class9ryan on (March 7, 2014, 14:56 GMT)

To describe a captain their can be various parameters. TACTICIAN and MOTIVATOR are two different terms altogether. Smith describes the second term. Every captain had its own flavour to their captaincy - Lloyd was god-fatherly, AB and Sourav denote revival, Imran denotes uplifting, while Ricky and Mark continued the good work of their earlier captains. Suming up how can you judge a captain of different groups of people ? People like Mushfiqur Rahim would have been the best captains of the cetury by now had they captained Australia/South Africa.

Posted by megarain on (March 7, 2014, 14:23 GMT)

Smith was a v defensive declaration setter .. And holds the record for most decs, being draws. That alone, for me, says he too defensive, to be the best Test captain.

Posted by twistedseatbelt on (March 7, 2014, 14:18 GMT)

@Beertjie yes maybe youre right and maybe youre wrong, Clive Llyod's great team never had to face the star studded South African team of the 70s and early 80s, Pollock and Richards aside, there was one Clive Rice, nowhere on anyones list for greatest all rounders, and certainly nowhere on this list today for who is the greatest captains (of those who never played a test of course).

Posted by David_Boon on (March 7, 2014, 14:13 GMT)

Poor Gary, hes gotten a bit emotional. Imran, Benaud, Taylor, Fleming and on and on are far better. Clarke is a FAR better captain. Ian Chappell's comments proven right yet again.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 7, 2014, 14:11 GMT)

Mr. Chappel says SA cricket is " designed to beat... teams below them in standard (&) most level with them … SA will never beat a team ... level with them in ability or slightly better. They wait for teams to make mistakes... really good teams don't make mistakes."

That is not true for all SA cricket. On Mr. Chappel's final tour to SA, Bill Lawry's team was crushedin a 4-0 whitewash. Mr Chappel made scores of 0 & 13: 0 & 14: 34 & 0: 17 & 14 - AVE 15.5. SA won by: 170 runs, inngs & 129 runs, 307 runs & 323 runs. By his standards, Aus's team was far below SA in standard, & was awful - it "made endless mistakes" every match!

SA beat Aus, at home, in 2008 & 2012. Were Aus "below SA in standard?" Were Ponting's teams "bad?" Under him, SA scored 414 for 4 in a 4th inngs chase, & chased 438 in an ODI!

Hansie Cronje was an aggressive captain, as was Kepler Wessels. Observations about Smith are one thing, but are untrue for ALL SA cricket. Mr. Chappel knows that well - ave 15.5 says it!

Posted by screamingeagle on (March 7, 2014, 14:04 GMT)

I rate Steve Waugh the best, probably Allan Border ranks up there as well. Smith is good, but not THAT good.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 14:03 GMT)

Many critics of smith forgets where saf was when he took the job. Saf was a complete mess after 2003 word cup with so many issues on and off the field. Many other people would've broke in that situation in a year, smith took saf to number one from that postion. Massive respect.

Posted by Rally_Windies on (March 7, 2014, 14:02 GMT)

so few votes for Flemming ,,,,

poor guy, he had a crap team......

but he was easily the best captain ever. . . . .

If Australia had him, Waugh and Pointing would have to settle to be vice.

The ONLY MAN who was probably a better leader was Llyod.

but NoBODY,,,and NOBODY beats Flemming for field placing's , bowler rotation, and strategic declarations ....

Posted by sergio11 on (March 7, 2014, 13:59 GMT)

dont think so..but want he achieved is remarkable...taking over the captaincy at a young age,even before cementing his place as a batsman and doing so well both as captain and as an opener,that's awesome achievement,but he always had the team,world beaters in his side..Pollock,Kalliis,Ntini and now Amla,AB,Styen,Morkel..so its easy to captian a side when players like those are around..and ofcoz easy to win with such a side...same for Steve Waugh..he also had an awesome team..Steven Fleming yes..but he dont have much victory to talk about as a captian...but when you look some like a Ganguly,Imran Khan,now Micheal Clerk..they started with a "nothing" team and finally produced so many great players..and won matches abroad as well as at home...Clerk still long way to go..on that note,a captain is judged by the team he left behind..Steyn,Morkel and all are not groomed or "made" by Smith..but Imran Khan left behind and groomed a team..Wasim,Waquar,Anwar..it has to be Imran Khan..

Posted by Kingman75 on (March 7, 2014, 13:50 GMT)

Smith is one of the worst ever. Has the greatest bowling attack of his generation in the last seven years and could only take advantage of being number one in the last 1.5 years.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 13:48 GMT)

Excellent views from both Gary Kirsten and Ian Chappell. Both differ a lot. Yet both make sense in their own way.

Graeme Smith was a leader of men, but NOT a great tactician. And, definitely, not a Mike Brearley....the bloke with the degree in people :-)

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 13:37 GMT)

I like that point haddin 99 and rogers 122

Posted by Biggus on (March 7, 2014, 13:36 GMT)

I'd rate Mark Taylor the best I've seen. If I were a Kiwi it would likely be Stephen Fleming, English-Brearley, Pakistan-Imran...........I think you get my drift. Our answers will be conditioned by our cricketing environment. From my reading it would probably be Frank Worrell, but I wasn't fortunate enough to see him play. Anyway, as an Aussie it's Mark Taylor very closely followed by Allan Border. Taylor had it all, great leadership qualities, superb tactician, media savvy without spouting cliches, all wrapped up in a humble and extremely likeable package that belied his steely core. Border, well he took over at the lowest point I've ever seen our cricket at and gave us back our heart, soul, and self respect. Tough as nails but not Taylor's equal as a tactician. Waugh and Ponting much the same as Border but with better teams, both good leaders but plodders tactically, at least in tests which is what I'm basing all my assessments on since I regard it as the fiercest test of captaincy.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 13:36 GMT)

Smith is the greatest test captain...? Hmm...I have reservations about that... A captain is as good as his team. If bowlers do their job, and batsmen do their job and if fielders do theirs, then captain has no job! Whether it was all conquering Clive Lloyd or Invincible Steve Waugh , they are blessed with very strong teams. As they say, Cricket is a team game played by individuals. Captain's ability comes to the fore when and if he could motivate otherwise mediocre team to world beaters and that too not just home but alien conditions. Imran Khan ,Arjuna Ranatunga, Sourav Ganguly and Stephen Fleming belong to this category. They did not have the strongest of the teams but for the captain's strategy and instilling self belief, they would not have become the world beaters they were in their time. Especially Imran Khan , who beat England in England and India in India. And remember he wanted to play fair and square, and got England Umpires for the home series against India!

Posted by king_julien on (March 7, 2014, 13:31 GMT)

Whats the criterion to decide the best Test captain? I think there are multiple criterias and no one captain ticks all the boxes. Would Clive have been the same without his pace battery, Richards, Haynes, Greenidge and Clive himself? no...similarly Steve Waugh and Ponting had Mcgrath and Warnie (how many teams have had such a luxury?)...Just because Stephan Fleming didn't have these resources does that make him a very bad captain?

But we could have discussion over certain traits. For managing a temperamental team like Pakistan (& Javed :)), raising your own level & producing pacers, Imran is the forerunner. For making a team believe in themselves and stand upto giants like australia then Saurav takes the cake. For longevity Smith is the man. For building a team Mark Taylor scores over Waugh and Ponting). For managing with limited resources Allan border, Stephan fleming come to mind. For leading characters over such a long period and having everyone's respect theres no one like Clive

Posted by Beertjie on (March 7, 2014, 13:28 GMT)

I agree with Chappelli that the greatest captains think out of the box: cf Bradman McG '37 reversing the batting order. Having excellent players available is all well and good but oftentimes synergies don't develop whereas cliques do (no examples for fear of denialist replies from indignant 'fans', but many will know of such instances). Lloyd and his team/s deserve great credit for their domination given Caribbean politics - much more contorted than South African, despite your typical victim-playing remarks suggest, @twistedseatbelt on (March 7, 2014, 12:56 GMT).

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 13:27 GMT)

I partly agree with Ian Chappel. He is just analytical without compassion, which is what other commentators are adding to. The stats and history witness that Smith on his part was very dominating against the weaker sides and very competitive and naturally challenging against the equal weight teams. Taking the team to become the No.1 side in Tests is no ordinary task and Smith fitted the role excellently as a father figure. Kudos to him.

Posted by JiggsBda on (March 7, 2014, 13:21 GMT)

Kisrten makes excellent points for Smith, but i believe that Lloyd was the architect of the modern game.... all the greats since the Windies now use his model. Physical fitness, excellent fielding, ruthless batting and bowling. These are the qualities espoused by the teams of today and it began with Lloyd's Windies.

Posted by BloemBull on (March 7, 2014, 13:13 GMT)

Lloydster - you do know Smith scored a double hundred 5 months ago, right? In the past 2 calendar years, he scored 4 centuries - including that double and 8 fifties (19 tests). Hardly poor batting performance. The amount of injuries were few and far in between. Anyone criticising his TEST captaincy/ performances, need to take of his blinkers.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 13:07 GMT)

For once I disagree Gary. Smith has always had the finest resources - steyn, morkel, and philander plus a great batting lineup of Amla, AB, Kallis...He also spent the last few years playing a weakened Aussie team. What has SA achieved in the subcontinent? Has not won a world cup either. Imran, Arjuna, and Saurav lead their countries to new frontiers. Even in tests, they have never dominated the Aussies. Under Steve, Ponting, and Taylor Aus always managed to beat SA. So I will say Smith has underachieved. Waugh and Border were amazing captains. And Martin Crowe was a master tactician. Fleming too was fantastic. And then we had Clive Loyd and several other great captains.

Probably Steve Waugh must be the greatest ever for going beyond winning and captaincy - for helping a charity in Calcutta.

Posted by twistedseatbelt on (March 7, 2014, 12:56 GMT)

Its interesting though that Chappel only opens his mouth when Australia wins. He never retracts his utterly ridiculous statements when in the very next ball, over, innings or match he is disproven. He never once concedes he is wrong. Great stuff OZ you won, BIG DEAL, you are not number 1 and you still have many series to win before you topple SA. As for Smith, thank you for being the leader that you are and were, you showed everyone that people can grow and teams can evolve.. No other captain in international cricket except a South African has had to deal with racial quotas, political meddling in selections. I wonder how great a captain Clive Lloyd would have been without the fast bowlers in his armoury. I wonder how great Ponting and Waugh would have been without Warne and Mcgrath to bowl teams out. Smith did phenomenally well with the resources he was given. I salute you Captain Courageous.

Posted by ozzystyle on (March 7, 2014, 12:47 GMT)

This is regarding the poll 'Who is the greatest Test Captain'. Not every one should be allowed to vote in this poll. The Indians and the Pakistanis with their sheer numbers can influence the outcome of the poll. How can you even imagine Imran Khan getting more votes than Clive Lloyd and Sourav Ganguly getting as many votes as Steve Waugh did? ESPN Cricinfo should have an eligibility test in place and only those who qualify in this should be allowed to vote. This test should have questions about the history of the game and rules of test cricket. Otherwise every T20 loving Tom, Dick and Harry who call themselves cricket lovers will twist the poll out of context. No disrespect to Imran and Sourav. They are charismatic in their own right.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 12:41 GMT)

NO gary you dead wrong. maybe you too yong or too biased to recognize the name CLIVE HUBERT LLOYD... greatest captain ever in all forms of cricket

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 12:40 GMT)

What about Clive Lloyd? The man who turned the "calypso" cricket team of the caribbean into a team that went undefeated for 20 years!

Posted by Vaughanographic on (March 7, 2014, 12:31 GMT)

Smith was to captaincy what Tendulkar was to batting. You can argue all your want about who is the better captain or batsman, but they both have the records for longevity which is its own statement.

And in care you are wondering, yes I do think there are both better captains and batsmen. But their status in sheer volume is there for all to see.

Posted by PFEL on (March 7, 2014, 12:31 GMT)

I really hope this is inaccurate reporting in some way and that Kirsten wasn't actually suggesting that because it's embarrassingly ridiculous. Excellent gritty player and OK captain was Smith, the game will miss him but he was never even above average as a Test captain.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 12:28 GMT)

No way! Two Steves, Fleming and Waugh come before him. As simple as it gets Gary.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 12:22 GMT)

Typical Chappell, in his career he got thrashed so many times by SA in the 70's that he never got over it. Its ridiculous to say that they cant beat teams better then them. So I guess then that having lost only 2 series in 8 years that he admits then that no one is better then SA seeing that we can't beat better teams only teams below us. His comments and behaviour are typical of what comes from Australia, a team like SA can dominate for 8 years yet we are undeserving of nr 1 etc. yet if oz wins 2 series in a lifetime then they are undisputed nr 1's Very interesting but as a nation South Africans are used to being underestimated and other nations always trying to degrade our achievements. They are all in for a surprise, this team is still young where as all the oz key men are in the twilights. Johnson 33 Clarke 33 Harris 35 Haddin 99 Rogers 122 Watson 33. With the young talent in the world now it will be SA and India in the long run other then some bowlers not much coming from oz

Posted by Lloydster on (March 7, 2014, 12:16 GMT)

Biff (Smith) did well as captain /player at times but failed many a time to bring home the silverware so I agree with Chappell. Not to be too critical of Smith but I am pleased he has made way for new blood as his poor batting performance over the years/ always injured on tour closes a chapter .

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