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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 06:30 GMT
Doubts over South Africa's new era
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport

Graeme Smith
Smith will have to convince doubters he is not a puppet captain
"We are looking at the 2007 World Cup. It is a new era," announced South Africa's chief selector Omar Henry, naming a new-look national side with Graeme Smith as its captain.

Banished, apparently, are the memories of a heart-breaking World Cup campaign, a week before a match that was supposed to stage South Africa's finest moment - the Johannesburg final.

Gone, certainly, are the first generation of post-isolation stars, with the retirements of Jonty Rhodes, Allan Donald and Gary Kirsten and the "resting" of Lance Klusener.

Where several of the side dedicated their World Cup effort to the memory of Hansie Cronje, the 22-year-old Smith never met the infamous former captain.

But underneath the glossy new coat of paint the same problems remain, not least the troublesome marriage of political requirements and ensuring success.

Clive Rice, himself a former South Africa captain, believes there was no good reason for Shaun Pollock to become the newest member of the club.

Rice rebuffs suggestions that Pollock's reign was "captaincy by numbers", reasoning that he had little opportunity to innovate with a side he had little part in picking.

"I don't think the selectors gave him any options," he told the BBC Sport website.

"The team was picked by the politicians - it wasn't his team so he ended up as a political puppet.

"When you've got players in the side who shouldn't be there you've got to somehow fit them in, but you've also got to take wickets. You can't be flexible."

Clive Rice believes Mark Boucher should have been named skipper
I don't think you're doing Boucher's confidence any good, I don't think you're doing Pollock's confidence any good
Clive Rice
Rice, never afraid to voice a controversial opinion, doubts the motives of the United Cricket Board in naming the youngest South African captain ever.

"They've got someone who certainly doesn't know what the big game is and can be manipulated very easily.

"When you've got a young guy like that he's just going to bow down to whatever the politicians want to say or how they want to influence the side."

Smith showed signs of youthfulness when he revealed exactly how Australia had welcomed him to international cricket: a stream of expletives doubting his ability despite a half-century on debut.

However, Glenn McGrath revealed that, far from bowing down, Smith had given as good as he got.

Smith's side, set to play next month's triangular series in Sharjah before going on to tour Bangladesh, features five post-World Cup arrivals.

However, all but one - Jacques Rudolph - have played one-day internationals before.

Rice believes the selection panel, overhauled just last May following a thrashing at the hands of Australia, are only now beginning to arrive at the squad they should have chosen for the World Cup.

Graeme Smith (capt) Age: 22, Caps: 22
Paul Adams 26, 17
Mark Boucher (wkt) 26, 102
Allan Dawson 33, 6
Boeta Dippenaar 25, 56
Herschelle Gibbs 29, 123
Andrew Hall 27, 29
Jacques Kallis 28, 174
Neil McKenzie 28, 51
Makhaya Ntini 25, 68
Robin Peterson 23, 7
Shaun Pollock 29, 186
Jacques Rudolph 21, 0
Charl Willoughby 28, 1
The five new faces have an average age of 27, and the squad will, on average, have passed their 30th birthdays by the time they travel to the Caribbean in 2007.

Rice is not optimistic about the chances of success for a man who does not captain regularly at provincial level, although he has done so with success for South Africa A.

"I think he's going to struggle to start with," he said.

"Being a captain of a cricket team is not like studying at university - it's all trial and error and gaining experience.

"Where does Mark Boucher fit in? He's going to be there in 2007. He's the current vice-captain."

Keeping the still-present old guard happy will be just one of the duties for South Africa's fresh-faced skipper.

South Africa selectors chairman Omar Henry
"We need to start afresh"

Former SA captain Clive Rice
"They are making a huge mistake"

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