'Time crept up on me' - Smith
Graeme Smith, the former South Africa captain, has said that Gary Kirsten's exit as coach and Jacques Kallis' retirement had played a hand in his decision to consider retirement. Smith, who took over as South Africa captain at the age of 22, announced his retirement during the Newlands Test in March and he admitted that the decision had surprised a few people close to him.
"The thought had been in my mind for a period of time. There had been things happening around that made me start to consider it - family, Gary Kirsten was coach and then he moved aside, Jacques Kallis retired from the format, I had been playing for 12 years," Smith said in an interview with former Carte Blanche host Ruda Landman. "I think ideally, I would have loved to have gone to another World Cup and played against England here, end of next year.
"But I think time slowly crept up on me and it was becoming more and more prominent in my head. And various things, my team, family, were probably edging me closer to that. And then my daughter got injured and it became a real thought. To be honest, I caught a lot of people by surprise, including my parents. I don't think my dad's dealt with it yet. From my perspective, I sit here today very relaxed with it, very comfortable with the decision I made."
Smith said when his daughter was injured, it was a very tough time for him. "When I think about it, it was a really stressful time in my life. She was burnt with hot water down her face, arm and leg. When she got hurt, we were in the middle of a massive series against Australia," he said. "I was taking her to the hospital on the morning of the game, having the procedure and then having to leave to go to play the Test match. I'd walk in with her, she'd be gassed and put out, then I'd lay her down on the bed, walk out, wait for her to recover and then go to the ground to play against Australia. It was a very stressful time and probably played a big role in why I retired."
Smith, who played 117 Tests - of which he captained in 109 - said the early days of his retirement were daunting but he was beginning to enjoy the time and space it afforded him. After his retirement, Smith played a few county games for Surrey but had to curtail his season due to a fractured right knee that required surgery. After receiving medical advice, he decided not to complete his three-year deal with the county.
"I miss my team-mates, I miss that environment. I really loved that part of sport - being out there, playing in tough parts of the world, winning and then sharing in the celebration, working hard. I miss that side of things actually," he said. "But I am loving the more relaxed nature. I feel like my heart can breathe again. I feel like there is a lot more space in my life. Initially, it was very daunting. I had been receiving one pay cheque for 12-13 years and that was no longer there. Luckily, I had looked after money reasonably well. It gave me space to take time and start to consider what is next for myself."
While admitting that he would like his future endeavours to be around the game of cricket, Smith said that he wasn't considering coaching as an option yet, due to its demands of extensive travel and time. Instead Smith said he was attracted to the business and management side of sport.
"I am very interested in the business of sport, and there's obviously the cricket side of it. There are offers to play in the Big Bash League in Australia, the local domestic competitions," he said. "I am attracted to anything that involves cricket. It's a sport that has given me so much pleasure, so much learning over the years. I think for me, the travelling aspect of being a coach is something that I need some time away from. Since I have been 21, I have been travelling the world, sometimes 250 days a year. I think the things that interest me more may be the business of sport, may be getting involved in aspects that are around the team, and around administration and also business."
Smith and Landman were speaking on the Change Exchange online platform for Brightrock Insurance.