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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 March, 2003, 08:23 GMT
Smith picks up the pieces
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport in Johannesburg

Graeme Smith
Smith believes he can return South Africa to former glory
For a 22-year-old thrust into the toughest job in South African cricket, Graeme Smith is remarkably honest about his team's recent failings - and he is already thinking up ways of fixing a wounded team.

When it became clear last weekend that Shaun Pollock was facing the axe after a dismal World Cup performance by the co-hosts, the young opening batsman had already been tipped as a potential heir.

Smith has captained teams since he played at the most junior levels of the game.

And he admits that, as soon as he broke into the side more than a year ago, he was already keen to be one of the decision-makers.

In short, he appears the antithesis of Pollock, who was a reluctant captain from day one, a consensus-seeker criticised for lacking imagination.

Now the job is Smith's - and he knows what he needs to do to make the team buzz again.

Graeme Smith profile
Born: 1/2/1981
Tests: Eight
Runs: 606
Average: 55.09
One-day caps: 22
Runs: 864
Average:41.14

"I have to get everyone in the team working in one sole direction," he told BBC Sport's website.

"Maybe we need a bit of discipline in our cricket and maybe we need a bit of fun. But I am determined to bring back the passion and spark."

He freely admits that most of those aspects were missing in the World Cup.

He added: "One of my hardest jobs will be to get the guys to step up a gear. As a captain I have to have the ability to tap into any player.

"With Jacques Kallis, you have to make him bowl at 140kph because you know he can if he wants to."

Kallis, five years Smith's senior and a highly experienced and successful player in his own right, will have to get used to the new environment.

Equally, Smith says he will seek the advice of such senior players as Kallis when necessary.

Smith claims his age will not hamper his captaincy.

"I left home at 18 for cricketing reasons. I've always been the youngest guy in teams. I have matured quickly and that's helped my cricket," he said.

Smith's first tour in charge is in doubt.

The Sharjah Cup, during the first 10 days of April, may not be played at all due to the United Arab Emirates' proximity to Iraq.

I want to be my own character. I want to be Graeme Smith
Graeme Smith

Following that will be a tour of Bangladesh, an ideal hunting-ground for building confidence, before the big test - the long tour of England.

"We haven't won there since re-admission and we should have done," he said.

"We seem to start well and then we tail off. Of all the Test series we will play we will have to be particularly well prepared for that one."

Smith is a keen student of the game.

"I've always watched a lot of cricket. I've started reading some autobiographies now - trying to get to know the game better and learning from other past captains," he said.

And he has interesting opinions on former South African players, who he says should quit criticising the team and instead direct their concerns to him or individual players.

But perhaps the most revealing of answers he gives comes when he is asked to name his cricketing idols.

"I've never had a hero," he said. "I've always admired a guy for what he does, but I want to be my own character. I want to be Graeme Smith."




SEE ALSO
Have Your Say on South Africa
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say


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