With this week's retirement of Graeme Smith, South African cricket will now be going through a period of transition as the new guard take over from the players who have had the Proteas' new-found dominance built around them.

This winter has seen the retirements of Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and now Smith - some of the most influential players in South African cricket history.

Kallis will go into history as the greatest all-rounder and probably the greatest cricketer of all time. Boucher will be known as the greatest Proteas keeper. But Smith is often an un-heralded hero.

He took over the Test captaincy at the age of just 23, after a year in international cricket. But once he took over the mantle he never looked back, with England often at the other end of the points he made as captain.

Back-to-back double centuries against England in 2003 proved to the doubters that Smith was the right man to lead his side, be it with runs or with leadership. Those innings, at Edgbaston and Lord's, came on the back of comments from England captain Nasser Hussain, who was clearly unfamiliar with Smith back then.

This unyielding attitude saw Smith to 27 Test centuries and more than 9000 runs at the top of the order. Biff, as he is affectionately known, has often produced his best innings when needed most by his side.

In 2008, he made a century in his side's incredible chase of 418 in Adelaide. He also formed a large part of the greatest game of cricket ever, when 175 from Herschelle Gibbs and 90 from 55 balls from Smith saw the Proteas chase down 434 at a packed Wanderers in an ODI game that will go down in folklore.

The left-hander will forever be remembered for leading his side to a number-one world ranking and dominating cricket at one of the most competitive periods of international cricket. But possibly the longer lasting image will be of his inexplicable technique. Not one for the coaching manual, but definitely one for the history books.

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