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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Smith finds right time
By John May
BBC Sport Rose Bowl regular

It is an overworked and tired phrase, but Robin Smith's retirement really will mark the end of an era at Hampshire.

Robin Smith
At his zenith Smith was among the top three batsmen in the world
Next season will be the first time for 25 years that a Hampshire team will not contain a member of the Smith family.

Chris Smith was just established when younger brother Robin breezed in from Durban.

He was a bit brash, with crinkly, wavy hair that earned him the nickname "Judge" that has stuck with him since.

Launched into the first-class game in 1982 he blazed a reputation over the next 21 years as one of the most destructive batsmen in the game.

To sit on the cover point boundary as Smith unleashed one of his trademark square cuts was like sitting on the outside bend of a truck race.

At his zenith, Smith was among the top three batsmen in the world.

Hampshire will find it hard to replace him, but the influence he wielded over the club is still there
He relished the challenge of toughing it out against the bully-boy tactics of the West Indies pace battery and at times he almost stood alone.

Yet the diamond was flawed, and what stopped Smith from being perhaps the greatest batsman of his generation was his trouble against spin.

Smith always denied that he struggled against top-class spin, stressing that the bowlers who consistently got him out dismissed all the top batsmen.

Yet while he bared his chest and stuck his chin out like Desperate Dan against fast bowlers, there was always an element of rabbits and headlights when he faced slower bowlers.

For all his talent and bravado, Smith was a gentle man of brittle confidence.

The Judge was a magnificent ambassador for Test and county cricket, such a gentleman as well as a fantastic player
Devon Malcolm
Perhaps his biggest fault was the was too nice a guy who found it difficult to say "no" off the pitch, and allowed little imps to torture him on it.

On the basis that there is no sadder sight than an old Bull Tusker limping his way to the Elephant's Graveyard, Smith is getting out at the right time.

His body is just beginning to let him down, injuries he would have sniffed at years ago are now taking their toll, and a time to heal.

He is still capable of the powerfully-constructed 78, but the cupboard is now bare of the big tons.

Hampshire will find it hard to replace him, but the influence he wielded over the club is still there.

Smith's friendship with cricket groupie Rod Bransgrove was instrumental in bringing him into the club via the back door with a seat on Hampshire's committee.

From being one of his prime victims, Smith struck up a firm friendship with Shane Warne, leading to one of the biggest coups in county cricket when the Aussie leg-spinner signed for Hampshire in 1999.

Some argue that the influence of the Smith brothers, and their omnipresent father John, had been a little too pervasive on Hampshire cricket down the years.

Shane Warne during his Hampshire days
Smith's friendship with Warne resulted in a major coup for Hampshire
At times, it appeared they ran the club surreptitiously but Smith always had the club's interests at heart.

Who is to say that but for Smith, Hampshire would not still be back in the cramped Northlands Road instead of the magnificent Rose Bowl?

Cricket will miss Smith and Smith will miss cricket, although his business interests will still keep him involved in the game.

More than that, Smith will miss what became a pre-game ritual for Hampshire supporters.

To prepare himself - and to find himself in times of trouble- Smith would repair to the nets with his father in tow to feed the bowling machine.

The orders were simple, crank it up to full pelt, and set the sights for the ball to pitch a foot outside off-stump.

What better therapy is there but to do what you do best, thumping the ball with awesome power until it screamed for mercy?




WATCH AND LISTEN
Hampshire's Robin Smith
"I couldn't think of a better time to retire"



HAMPSHIRE

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