Smith and Kirsten

Way back in 2004 Gary Kirsten was so moved by Graeme Smith’s passion as a young captain that, after just one year playing under his leadership, he rated him amongst the best captains he’d experienced. He’s seen plenty of him since then, even when he was coach of India, and nothing has changed his opinion.

Perhaps Kirsten will begin to realise in the next couple of months how strong some of the public’s sentiment is against the Test captain (and of the country’s greatest batsmen.)

Smith has taken a couple of months ‘off’ from Twitter and chose to have an extended period out of the country while the emotional backlash following the World Cup disaster died down. (You may have noticed that half a dozen other Proteas did exactly the same for tax reasons but that’s neither here nor there). Apparently, Smith received some pretty vile messages on Twitter and Facebook.

I can imagine what it might have been like. Soon after returning from the World Cup I wrote a column in which I suggested that Smith deserved more sympathy than vitriol and that, at the age of 30, he still had a huge amount to offer South African cricket and that he probably hadn’t even reached his peak as a batsman.

Well, I’m not sure any column received quite as much ‘correspondence.’ Much of it was ill-considered and unnecessary and was immediately deleted for the sake of decency. I’m sure that proposing to his girlfriend was not the only reason he went to Ireland instead of returning to South Africa. But I’m not sure that it was wise for him to put his absence down to being ‘emotional’ as he did at his press conference on Sunday. Captains, after all, are expected to be able to deal with their emotions better than anyone else.

For the record, however, and for Kirsten’s sake (just in case he really doesn’t know how much work there is for him to help restore the public’s faith in his captain) here is one of the more considered responses which landed in my inbox: And it was signed, but I’ll leave names out of it for now.)

What absolute codswallop – The rest of the team came back and so should he have!

a)      He was the only opening batsman in any of the 14 teams to not make a 50 in the round robin part of tournament –

b)      How do you think it felt for the REST of the team that he was not there and THEY ALL had to face all the media without him?

c)       The reality is he manages upwards and downwards in CSA and pretty much does what he wants (ask Ashwell Prince on captaincy)

d)      The question is what did CSA not ask him to come back to SA, deal with the matter and THEN go and propose? Instead of looking like the proposal was the main thing on his mind – oh no he can just tell them what HE is doing

e)      so if talking about setting up an opening platform (something he avoided discussing) as he blamed it on the (inexperienced) middle order that the media continually criticized BEFORE the team left ….oh yes and who decided on that middle order – no Bouch etc?

All absolute CRAP – the only difference is that he finally showed his true personal colours – Graeme Smith cares about Graeme Smith and has been allowed to be a control freak of all things cricket

I don’t agree with much of the sentiment and will continue to support and constructively criticize the captain as and when appropriate. One thing he did acknowledge on Sunday, however, was that his form had not been good enough and that he would do all in his power to regain his match-winning ability with the bat.

If Kirsten can help him do that, the criticism will fade away quickly. Or, at least, dwindle to insignificance.

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