Former Proteas captain and Laureus Ambassador, Graeme Smith, feels that South Africa’s recent struggles in the ODI series, the Champions Trophy and the T20 series – all in England, sees the hosts start as favourites for the upcoming 4-match Test series which gets underway on 6 July at Lord’s.
Smith, speaking in Episode 5 of the Power of Sport podcast, ahead of traveling back to England for the series in his capacity as a broadcaster, feels that despite the Proteas recent good run in the Test arena, recent woes puts them firmly on the back foot heading to Lord’s.
“I think they (England) would start favourites, they just look in a better place at this stage. Let’s hope the guys (SA) get the leadership there and our team prepares really well.”
Smith’s assessment comes off the back of a number of issues currently surrounding the national side; captain Faf du Plessis’s wife has just given birth, there’s a cloud hanging over whether coach Russell Domingo will be reappointed after the series and there’s also uncertainty over whether AB de Villiers will continue to play test cricket in the future.
“To be honest with you I’m a little bit uneasy about this test series. Since we’ve arrived in England, if we’re honest, the team has looked flat; it has looked like something is missing.“There’s a lot of uncertainty around that squad at the moment: Russell’s not there, his job, we’re not even sure if he’s applied or moved away from the job at the end of this series; Faf is at home (due to the birth of his child), so there’s a lot of leadership uncertainty.
“The team hasn’t looked like it’s got a spark or it hasn’t looked in control of what they’re doing since they’ve been in the UK, so the 4 test match series is huge. It will be a lot of pressure, it’s very draining, it’s a long tour, so the leadership of that group and how they come together tactically, mentally and emotionally in terms of dealing with the pressures of playing in front of large UK crowds, the UK media – those are the things that I guess worry me a little bit.”
Domingo’s future has been the subject of much speculation and Smith says the continued uncertainty isn’t assisting the team environment and he’s unsure about whether Domingo should stay on.
“I haven’t got a decision on it yet. To be honest with you I heard that he was looking to move away, a period ago, to maybe move into a less pressurized job maybe like the SA ‘A’ job. I don’t know if that’s the case but that’s what I heard a while ago, whether that’s true or not I don’t know, that’s a decision that he will need to make.
“He hasn’t really been open and honest and come out and said “I want the job”, unless I’ve missed it, which has been surprising to me.”
And while the cricketing world waits with baited breath about what the future holds for AB de Villiers, Smith is forthright in his assessment of the situation.
“I just think the PR around South African cricket in terms of handling the AB situation and handling the new coach situation. There are obviously conversations that have been had behind the scenes …these are just my thoughts but it’s just been this floating (situation) and it hasn’t been dealt with and there’s been no direction on a lot of this stuff. I think that AB made a decision quite a while ago, when I look at it, from his body, from his family from the amount of travel and the workload that he didn’t feel that he could compete at all three levels of the game.
“After 106 test matches, it looks like he’s ready to retire from the longer format of the game. He’s set himself some goals and he’s come out publicly and said that he wants go to the 2019 World Cup and he wants to win it, if that’s the last goal that he’s got, then people have to respect that.”
It wasn’t all serious with Smith as we put him on the spot in our ‘Blitz’ feature. Download the episode to find out if he went for Sachin Tendulkar over Brian Lara and, in our toughest question yet of the whole series, Jacques Kallis or Mark Boucher.
Also in episode 5: the 2017 Tour de France starts in Düsseldorf and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka Team Principal, Doug Ryder, gives us his forthright view on the race and what riding for the team means beyond just podium finishes.
The Laureus Ambassadors have a number of campaigns during the course of the race that you can get involved in plus you can tune into our special series on the team, the Tour de France Voicenote.
Ron Rutland gives the full story on how, and why, he and friend Adam Rolston opted to play the longest single hole ever played in golf – 1800 kilometres across Mongolia. We test Ron on his knowledge of the rules, find out about the specially designed cart he’s had made, that he’ll be pulling, and fill him in on what sort of wildlife he can expect to encounter trekking through the region. And, he offers up a challenge to all those at home watching to get behind them.
We check in with the Laureus Polo event held in London and touch base with Ambassador and Springbok legend Bryan Habana on the launch of his Foundation in South Africa.
Team Habana looks to, through experiential learning, give young people confidence and competence in a range of leadership behaviours in order for them to fully unlock their potential.