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Captain Dud

by Ryan Govender / 17.08.2010

The moment approximately 49 million people, us, mentally stormed the opening game at Soccer City willing the ball into the net for a second goal against Mexico – Dale Steyn was standing in the Jamaican sun. Playing Test cricket.

Why do we put on a multi coloured wig and raise happy homemade banners as soon as we see a member of Bafana Bafana or a Springbok rugby player – but yawn when we bump into Morne Morkel and the entire Protea bowling attack at the supermarket? Cricketers are only noticed when Kallis starts dating another ex-Miss South Africa. (Is he working through them alphabetically?).

Sure the odd Pro20 game provides a nice break from Isidingo – but few of us even consider tuning into Tests anymore. The game itself turns most of us sleepy. Add the Proteas, and it’s like slipping a roofie to the masses.

I honestly think it’s because Graeme Smith is a total dud. His autobiography proves the absence of any appealing characteristics. He’s good at heart but he just doesn’t impress me. He would be far happier being a presenter on Top Billing. He lacks genuine charisma.

Now take Hansie Cronje. He ended up fielding on the midwicket boundary in a game I remember from the Nineties. Some naughty schoolboys were smoking on the grass mound nearby. Hansie, then captain of South Africa, turns and says, “Hey! Stop smoking!” He shoots the blue steel look he’d give Richard Snell after a dropped catch. Those smokes were downed faster than one of Mike Tyson’s opponents. Would the MXit abusing, Ritalin eating kids today respond the same way to Graeme Smith? Hell no. They’d laugh and heckle him. And Smith wouldn’t tune them either. He lacks real oomph.

The difference gets at what is lacking in the current generation of Protea cricketers. The difference between Smith and every captain before him. Maybe it’s about family values? Cronje, Pollock, Wessels, Rice and Cook were all married. They had day jobs. These guys were men. Men like Pat Symcox who didn’t even give up smoking. And he played the guitar. Only two current players are married. Most of them have never held down a real job in their lives. They all seem to have been spurted out of some cricketer manufacturing facility. Charisma-wise. Personality-speaking.

They are still the best 11 in the world though. By far. On paper. Our team is full of players in the top 5 rankings. Steyn is the best bowler, Kallis the best all-rounder, and Amla, soon, will be the best batsman. Idol status surely awaits. The only thing standing in the way is a major ICC trophy. And Smith.

He’s a colossal twit. But then so were Steve Waugh, Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussein. Good to greatish captains in their way. Ul Haq was fat. Shane Warne was an adulterer. But each had elements, as does Smith, of the greatest captains of all time. Maybe hauteur and oafishness enable success on the field. If so, Smith is supplying both in match winning quantities!

The team itself shatters records almost every time they don the whites. This despite failure at Championship and World Cup level. Which must play heavily on their sheltered minds. But failure on the field is the only way to teach well-paid players what true character is all about. It’s going to take time, it will be frustrating and we will curse loudly but they will get there. Give them time. As far as world titles go, the more they lose now the more they will win in the future. After Smith.

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