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Graeme Smith
Source: Bloomberg www.bloomberg.com

It’s not often that cricket on the turf is directed by souls and able personalities that have excelled on the very surface.

Zimbabwe have got Hamilton Masakadza at the helm of their affairs. India and BCCI are proud to get Saurav Ganguly. The Proteas– a unit that doesn’t only have fans in South Africa, since world cricket loves to see them doing well- now have the mighty Biff.

Yes, that’s right, Graeme Smith is the captain, the leader of not the Proteas team but the entire operations of Cricket South Africa which I must add is a far bigger role encompassing the Proteas, the women Proteas, Proteas A-side, Proteas U-19, and the domestic structure.

A couple of days back, ‘interim’ was removed from his title and he was appointed the permanent Director of Cricket till 2022.

Congratulations sir, a good start with more to conquer. Anyone seeking positive news amid a draught couldn’t have asked for more.

Leadership always came naturally to Graeme, when in 2003 he was appointed the youngest captain of not only South Africa but in the world at the time. His conquests were unparalleled, with leading South Africa to series wins in England, Australia, the Caribbean, the Subcontinent, and getting them to the pinnacle of Test Cricket in 2013.

So, coming from a massive pedigree on the field, his challenges as the permanent Director of Cricket will be far more complex and holistic. Appointed as the interim director in December 2019 amid the turmoil that Cricket South Africa was in, he made some good decisions of appointing the rock Mark Boucher as head coach, the best allrounder to grace the game, Jacques Kallis, as the batting consultant and Charl Langeveldt as the bowling coach. Those decisions will bear fruit in the time to come.

Let’s look at some of the further duties that he would need to undertake as the Director of Cricket.

Appointing a new Convenor of Selectors for the national team, Linda Zondi, the incumbent is in the reckoning.

Appointing a new Protea Women’s coach, Hilton Moreeng is the current incumbent who I must say put up a great show with the Women’s team reaching the semi-final of the recently concluded Women’s T20 World Cup.

Appointing a new Proteas U19 coach, Laurence Mahatlane is the incumbent under whose guidance the baby Proteas were rather dismal in the recently concluded home World Cup.

While these are some challenges considering the entirety of South African Cricket, when it comes to the national men’s team his 2 biggest responsibilities in the foreseeable future are:

Appointing the Test Team Captain

What we do know is Graeme Smith has made it sufficiently clear that de Kock won’t have this mantle and would continue to lead the limited-overs outfits and concentrate on his ever-improving and if I may destructive stroke play.

The possible candidates to fill this role could be:

Temba Bavuma

has been ever-present in the Proteas test team with huge potential and a good cricketing acumen. His recent limited over success against England and Australia might hold him in good stead for a front runner.

Aiden Markram

He’s touted as a future leader after winning the U19 World Cup in 2014 and was thrown in the deep end as the limited-overs captain for the ODI leg of the inbound Indian tour in 2018. Unfortunately, South Africa could only win one game of the 7 contested and his captaincy was short-lived. His injuries of late have kept him out of the team, but when his return does happen which is a no brainer, he could come into the reckoning as a leader.

Dean Elgar

Plenty of grit but sans elegance, the experienced southpaw could be another candidate who would surely teach the team how to grind when the going gets tough and come on top through his experience.

Rassie van der Dussen

Well, what a success story this guy has been right from his debut against Pakistan at the beginning of 2019. Though only 4 tests old, his experience at the domestic level and the maturity in his budding test career could make him a dark horse.

Getting the Kolpaks back into the fold at the end of this year after Brexit.

Imagine the likes of Kyle Abbott, Simon Harmer, Duane Olivier, and Rilee Rossouw back in the South African fold. The bowling and batting quality would grow by leaps and bounds.

Well, technically this is possible.

Graeme Smith
Source: Outlook India

By the end of 2020 Brexit would come into effect which would mean no Kolpak deals. The English counties could only retain Kolpaks as overseas players which would mean a direct chance to play for South Africa, provided Cricket South Africa and the Kolpaks reach some kind of understanding. Simon Harmer has openly stated that there has been a lot of bad blood with Cricket South Africa and it would take both the parties to mend broken pieces for the greater good of South African Cricket. Smith is willing and as a lover of South African Cricket, which one hopes happens.

As of now, these are the two immediate tasks that surely beckon Graeme Smith’s attention.

Along with Boucher and company, Graeme Smith now in command, the next few months, even though marked with incessant transformation should have an ease in navigability with a master planner and plotter in high comand.

But hey.

Did anyone mention COVID also might play a role?

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