It’s our time now

January 7, 2009
Posted by

We have finally found a captain that can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the business.

A number of years back I read a comment on a site when Australia played India in India and there were two Aussie batsmen at the crease.

As we all know and have seen with our own players, conditions and especially the heat can get unbearable in India with players suffering from heat exhaustion. It was the same case here, with one of the Aussie batsman having a really tough time of it.

Apparently he went over to his batting partner (who was a senior partner if not the captain if memory serves) and said he cannot take it anymore and wanted to retire hurt as he is about to pass out.

His batting partner turned to him and said; “Yes, better you go up to the change room and find me a real Aussie then.?

Needless to say, he stuck it out and did not retire hurt. It defined the Aussie’s metal in cricket over the last 20 odd years.

We lost the final test in Sydney today, but the heroics displayed by our captain reminded me of this instance or comment I read.

For so long we had to see our players wilt under pressure, not being able to cope, not being able to stuck it out and not showing any metal, any grit and any mental toughness. For so long we had to see Australia smash everything that came their way and we had to, at best, be happy (and we were) with being second.

I have written about the role and importance of leadership, and leaders many times over the last 3 years, and how it is underestimated by the media and general public.

I will be honest, I was never a fan of Smith when he was appointed. Not that I wasn’t a fan of the player, I thought he was excellent as a player, but I believed it was a mistake to appoint him as captain.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing isn’t it…

The fact is however, Graeme Smith grew up, he matured, and he has grown into arguably the best, toughest character we have seen in South African sport in many a year.

All the praise is not only aimed at Smith though, a captain is useless if he does not have the support of his coach and senior players, and with Arthur, Smith managed to mould the South African cricket team into possibly the best test team in the world at the moment.

It was a monumental effort in 2008, with just about every player pitching in at one stage or another. A test series win in England, the first in many decades, a draw in India where the pitch was unplayable, and now our first ever series win in Australia.

Don’t for one second buy into the comments you are very likely to read which will claim we have beaten weakened teams. South Africa over its entire history have sent better teams (on paper) over to these countries, and played against weaker opposition (again on paper) and lost.

This recent series win and the whole of 2008 was most certainly South African cricket’s finest hour.

Finally we have a captain who leads from the front, who does not give an inch, and never quits. He, with his team will fight to the very last ball, broken hand or not.

So wherever you are, raise a glass to Smith and his entire team because we are on the brink of something special, something we have been waiting for ages to happen.

Take a bow Sir.

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15 Comments

  1. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Jake White- John Smit

    Mickey Arthur- Graeme Smith

    RSA still pumping out some of the worlds best… let’s hope none of the four are lost as future ‘brains trust’ to South African sport…

    Oh wait… one’s gone already not of his own accord!

  2. avatar bryce_in_oz says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 2:29 am

    Lest us not forget… we are still not number 1 and the Aussies could just as easy wipe us in the home tests as they have done every year before…

    3 brand new caps played the last test… and Stuart Clarke Australia’s best bowler is back…

  3. avatar The Brand says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Morne

    Mt very first impression I have of Smith just after he started playing for the Proteas – was in a test against Aus (can’t remember where) and Glenn McGrath were giving him a working over.

    At one stage with sledges flying line sledge hammers – McGrath kept on coming down the wicket after a delivery towards Smith, Smith when Glen was about 3 meters away and still advancing took a couple of steps forward and squared Glen up – like we see in boxing before match. The stare-down lasted several seconds with another big Aussie joining the ‘contest’. Smith did not back down an inch – kept eye contact and the umpires intervened.

    I thought to myself – hy het ballas hy gaan dit maak.

    But as a captain in the beginning I had a severe dislike in him – his last series in Aus was “proof” to me that he is out of his depth.

    Yet last year in England and now in Aus – as you say – he matured and mature amazingly.

    Well done Greame – to many more year of strong and mature leadership.

    Morne – Greames HAND was not broken – only the one nuckle of his left hand pinkie.

    What became obvious to me watching him bat – was that this man hardly ever practice batting only with his right hand – that is such a shame – he can still improve his batting ability further if he does.

    He did not have to bat with two hands – one hand is enough.

    The bottom hand only provide power – and some support during cuts.

  4. avatar Boertjie says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Reply to The Brand @ 9:42 am:

    The bottom hand only provide power – and some support during cuts.
    ==========
    I think you are wrong here -
    top-hand provides most of the power,
    bottom-hand does the steering.

    Anyway, that’s how Peter Kirsten
    many years ago enlightened me when
    I did a technical piece with him.

    I know it may sound strange and that
    us amateur backyard players do it differently.

  5. avatar Morné says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Reply to The Brand @ 9:42 am:

    At balls flying in at 140km/h + I doubt you can only bat with one hand.

    I know it was only one bone in his hand, but having broken a very similar bone myself I can tell you its #$&^@!# sore without have to bat or even hold a bat.

  6. avatar Boertjie says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Re weakened team and
    finest hour:

    Nobody can deny that this OZteam
    is much weaker sans McGrath and
    Warne than what it had been for
    many years.

    My post yesterday refers:

    This side is still far from the
    “mean machine? that Clive Rice’s
    Transvaal team was in the 80’s.

    Not to mention Bachers Boks. They
    did not suffer “dead rubber syndrome?
    after going 3-0 up against the OZmob
    in 1970.
    And they had some decent batters and
    bowlers that consistently performed
    instead of flash-in-the-pan performances.

    This side has Smith, and Steyn on a good
    day.

    Finest hour since unity – to that
    I will agree.

  7. avatar The Brand says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Reply to Boertjie @ 9:56 am:

    He he he – jy is reg en verkeerd ha ha ha

    Most times when someone is caught – you will hear commentators say – he had toooo much bottom hand.

    With youngsters it is very easy to see which hand brings what to the batting.
    You tell a righthand batsman to use only right hand when batting – think tennis forehand – and he still wacks the ball out of the park.
    You tell him RHB to use only left hand and they are near pathetic – can’t get anything away.

    I have seen the same with St 9 en 10 high school boys.

    Now for the bit where you are right.

    Without the bottom hand – steering – becomes a nightmare – the finer nuances near impossible.

    With only the front hand to bat – the game becomes completely technical.
    Now the “lift” while waiting for the ball becomes as important than the arc the bat goes.
    It becomes extremely difficult to “correct mid-way” through a shot – that finer nuance I mentioned.
    Now feet work becomes very very important.

    But to see a solid drive, hook, cut and even a back over the batsmen head shot – performed well – is poetry in motion – an act of real beauty.

  8. avatar The Brand says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Reply to Morné @ 9:56 am:

    he he he – en ek weet jy is verkeerd ;-)

    Batting with one hand is indeed not only possible – but a reality. ;-)

  9. avatar The Brand says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Reply to Boertjie @ 10:08 am:

    “Finest hour since unity – to that
    I will agree.”

    Me tooooooo

  10. avatar Morné says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Reply to Boertjie @ 10:08 am:

    What was the Aus-mob like during the mean-machine days? Or Bacher’s days?

    How strong were they?

    You mention McGrath and Warne.

    Since our last tour we lost a couple of stalwarts too, Pollock for instance, and some other player that fell out of favour with the now gone President of CSA and some that lost form.

    Prince our vice captain did not play the whole series.

    I would like to know what other year, in any decade, did we achieve the likes of what we achieved in 2008.

    Yes isolation from international cricket did play a role, but then it is all hypothetical that one would believe because of our isolation and it was never proven in the past, any other team would have been, or was better.

    This team has proven it.

    In addition, South Africa had a mean bloody team coming back from isolation – they could not achieve such successes.

    Reply to The Brand @ 10:33 am:

    I would like to see any batsmen face 140km/h+ yorkers and body shots.

    I practiced a lot with one hand in my batting to strengthen certain aspects of my technique (I was opening bat). So whether it is possible in net sessions and throw-downs is not in question.

    In a match, on a pitch, at 140km/h of quality bowling – not a chance.

  11. avatar cab says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    very impressive and admirable conduct.
    if he can remain level-headed and it being all about the team, this team could become legendary too.

  12. avatar Boertjie says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Reply to Morné @ 10:59 am:

    I’ve stated the answer on at least
    two occasions, but especially for
    you I will repeat it and in more
    detail:

    The OZmob of 1967 lost 1-3 to Peter
    vd Merwe’s Boks.

    The 1970 side lost 0-4. Bill Lawry
    refused the post-match session of the
    fourth test.
    They came here with “the best batsman
    in the world (Ian Chappel)” but he hardly
    got runs. (They worked out his weakness.)

    Lawry’s team had just beaten the Windies
    (still a major power then) and India
    in India.

    STATS

    Ian Redpath was the top OZ scorer with
    283 runs. The Boks had four over 350:
    Pollock 517, Richards 508, Barlow 360
    and Irvine 353. Seldom has any series
    seen such batting dominance.

    The best OZ bowler was Connoly with
    20 @ 26.10.
    The Boks had SEVEN bowlers under this
    average; Procter taking 41 of the 75
    wickets that fell to the Boks.

    “World Champions” was a phrase commonly
    bandied about and was justified.

    And then it all ended.

    The Aussies also had to replace three(?)
    retired batsmen; Lee hardly bowled and
    they had a very rookie attack.

    So by all means cheer the Proteas, but
    then in moderation and with a broader
    view.

  13. avatar Morné says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 12:31 pm:

    Thanks.

    Did those guys of ours ever tour in Aus land and (obviously not series result) how if so, did they perform?

  14. avatar Boertjie says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Reply to Morné @ 12:33 pm:

    They toured there in mid-50′s,
    a very young and inexperienced
    side under Jack Cheetham, who
    put a major emphasis on fitness
    and fielding.
    They drew the series 2-2 with one
    draw, to everyone’s major surprise.
    (There were even suggestions that
    the tour would be a disaster and a
    waste of time.)

    They also toured there in 1963-64
    under Trevor Goddard and drew 1-1
    with 3 draws.
    (Goddard, Barlow, Bland, G.Pollock,
    P.Pollock etc.)

    Background:
    The 1960 tour in Pomland was a disaster,
    so a team of youngsters were put
    together for a short tour in England -
    reaping lots of benefits later on.
    Eight members of the Fezelas became Boks:
    Van der Merwe, Barlow, Bland, P.Pollock,
    Lindsay, D.Pithey, Botten and Elgie.
    (Graeme Pollock was to young to tour.)

    So in a way the Fezelas fulfilled the
    same function as the Junior Boks’ tour
    in Argentina in 1959 after the AB’s and
    the Frogs whalopped us in ’56 and ’58.

  15. avatar Morné says:
    January 8th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Reply to Boertjie @ 12:55 pm:

    Those were damn close series losses.

    Sounds like an awesome team.

    Personally I would also like to see 5 test-series played – a lot more character to the game than a 2 or 3 match series.

    The mark of a true great side if they can win a 5-match series.

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