South Africa news July 25, 2014

'Time crept up on me' - Smith

ESPNcricinfo staff

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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ra on July 28, 2014, 12:43 GMT

    Smith - what a hero and legend.

    Thank you!

  • Pankaj on July 27, 2014, 4:31 GMT

    People who can sneer at Graeme Smith and that ilk are safe in the knowledge that they will never need to even crawl up the mountain of challenges which Smith has ascended. May the Lord protect them - and preserve us all from depending on them in a crisis.

  • utopian on July 26, 2014, 9:56 GMT

    Captain Smith is one of a handful of cricketers who has led his team to be World Test Cricket #1 Champions. Those who ignore that have no idea. He lost his 50+ average only recently which is no mean feat either. Excelled in all formats of the game despite technical challenges. Look at his current strikerate for Surrey in what is his twilight year: that is exceptional even today, where we all know that he isn't the player he was ten years ago. He has sacrificed more for South Africa than many celebrities who are adored by millions of South Africans, and any derogative remarks from South Africans are pure thanklessness and even prejudice. How he played that test with his child seriously injured, is beyond me. Go well Smith, history will remember you for as long as sport is played in South Africa. The most successful captain of one of only two sports where South Africa were world number 1. A completely under-estimated achievement in our time. As captain he enabled teammates 2 excel.

  • Francis on July 26, 2014, 9:27 GMT

    Amazing. Sometimes you read comments and you just wonder what goes through peoples heads. It's not hard to check Statsguru to prevent you making a fool of yourself.

    Smith did average slightly under 40 at home against India and Khan got him 6 times. And averaged over 35 for his 30 wickets in 8 Tests. However, if Sreesanth hadn't played Smith would have averaged a million. I lost county of how many times Sreesanth dismissed him. Left armer was he? Spinners got him out 4 times. Maybe SA wickets don't turn.

  • ESPN on July 26, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    I personally think Stephen Fleming was a far better captain than Smith as both got the captaincy at the same age , but Fleming had less talent to work with but got NZ playing well above there weight. I'm Australian but it's a shame Fleming never really gets mentioned to often.

  • Ishant on July 26, 2014, 8:11 GMT

    @Rajesh.Kumar: Smith was "an OK sort of player"? An opener who scored 27 centuries and averaged just south of 50 is just ok? I wonder what your standards for great are. And I haven't even brought up Smith's sterling fourth-innings record. Smith was not a technically gifted batsman, but he had tremendous mental strength, and that allowed him to crack Test cricket. His accomplishments speak for himself. I'm not even a Saffa fan, but I can appreciate a great player when I see one.

  • Rohit on July 26, 2014, 3:32 GMT

    He was an OK sort of player, who did well for Safs. Although he was completely clueless on spinning tracks, but somehow, he was completely clueless against the left-arm seamers on the fast tracks as well. How many times did Zaheer Khan get his wicket in South Africa? These are the reasons he will never be counted among the greats, but, possibly his contribution as a young captain has to be acknowledged, particularly so when the team was in turmoil in the aftermath of Hansie Cronje episode. But, I am still surprised that how come senior players like Jacque Kallis agreed to play under such an inexperienced player. May be they were left with no choice by their cricket board...

  • Garry on July 25, 2014, 16:28 GMT

    Gezz that must be mentally hard when something happens with one of your children during the middle of a test series and you are also captain. How on earth could you concentrate on the game? It takes someone with a strong mind that is for sure.

  • Dummy on July 25, 2014, 15:59 GMT

    One of the Great captain of all time....we miss you graemeeee....

  • Anupam on July 25, 2014, 15:33 GMT

    Great Years of excellence. Big man Smith always put his country ahead. Team man who unites the team and made it test No.1 with dominance. All the best Big man.

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