Stewart key broker in Smith deal
Alec Stewart, the former England wicketkeeper, was instrumental in bringing South Africa captain Graeme Smith to Surrey. Stewart is now an executive director at Surrey and played a key role in what he labelled the "biggest signing in county cricket since Shane Warne".
Surrey signed Smith on a three-year deal having been in the market for an experienced captain and top-order player. Smith fit the bill, as revealed by ESPNcricinfo in September, to join a county rebuilding after the tragic loss of Tom Maynard, the departure of former captain Rory Hamilton-Brown and the retirement of Mark Ramprakash.
"After everything that went on at Surrey last season, it became very evident that we needed a new leader to take the club forward," Stewart told BBC Sport. "Smith has been one of cricket's outstanding players and captains for a number of years.
"I have known Graeme since I played against him in my last Test series for England in 2003. It was the first time he had captained South Africa in England. He scored back-to-back double hundreds, and I said at the time that he was the most impressive 22-year-old I had come across.
"From that day I have kept an eye out for Graeme and caught up with him whenever our paths have crossed, so I took it upon myself to broach the subject of a move to Surrey while he was over here to captain in the summer."
Smith led South Africa to a 2-0 Test series victory and the top of the world Test rankings. Stewart described him as a "hugely impressive individual" and, coupled with his excellent record, quickly made him Surrey's top choice. Stewart first spoke to him on the opening morning of the first Test at The Oval in July and then in more detail before the third Test at Lord's.
"I talked Graeme through our proposal, gave him my take on where Surrey are now and where we need to be," Stewart said. "I told him he could and would make a difference. It soon became clear that Graeme was interested in what we had to offer."
Stewart's initial brokering led to a meeting with Smith and Chris Adams, Surrey's team director, near Smith's wife's home town of Cork. "It was clear to everyone that there was a perfect fit," Stewart said. "We were absolutely delighted that Graeme shared our desire for this to be a long-term deal because we were not looking for just a short-term fix. We were looking for a true leader to bring stability and success to the club and I know we now have the right man to lead the team out on the field.
"For his part, Graeme wants to stamp his mark on the squad and leave a successful legacy. I am quietly confident that in three years' time we will be looking back on the impact he has had and the huge part he will have played in bringing success back to The Oval."