Smith and Makhaya Ntini so nearly made history that day.ESPN called him the bravest man in world cricket after his heroics.The timing of Graeme’s decision does not surprise me at all.When Graeme’s great pal, Kallis, retired in December, I thought that he would not be far behind because when you lose one great player one or two others usually follow.He has had some wonderful players to captain – Kallis, Hashim Amla and A B de Villiers and a bowling attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander – and a good coach to work with in Gary Kirsten.But I would say that 60 per cent of what South Africa have achieved in getting to No 1 in the world Test rankings and staying there can be attributed to Graeme’s influence.
It was not until we went to South Africa in 2004/05 that we found ways of putting Graeme under pressure and that came from Matthew Hoggard swinging the ball back into him and getting him lbw playing across his front pad.His record as a captain will be talked about, and rightly so, but it should not be forgotten what a wonderful batsman he was.In 2003 we had four or five team meetings about Graeme about finding ways to restrict him but he made two double centuries in that series.IT is nothing to scoff at when you have been called the greatest ever Test captain by one of the legends of cricket itself – Gary Kirsten. So often had Graeme Smith taken it upon himself to uplift his team so that he could steer them out of a crisis.“Is he the greatest captain ever in Test match cricket? Who could forget the applause he received from the Australian cricket-loving public in 2009 when he took to the crease with a broken hand in a do-or-die Sydney Test? Biff, as he is so affectionately referred to is a team-first kind of man. 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.” It was in this tone of reverence that Kirsten spoke of him.“Eventually, I think they will only go with three seamers and a spinner (in Keshav Maharaj) and six batters with Quinton de Kock at seven.That will be their batting line-up and I think that is a powerful one,” he said.As a batsman he led from the front and he was always trying to make a statement.He would look to take on the opposition’s best bowler to make sure that South Africa took the initiative.