Graeme Smith’s first century for Surrey has only raised more questions about whether he could have continued at international level.
The South African has admittedly not enjoyed the strongest of starts to the season, averaging just 23 from his first seven innings in the County Championship. However, his ton against Gloucestershire has offered some hope that he may have turned a corner.
The poor start to the season was not just about Smith, though, as Surrey lost two and drew the same number of their opening games. While the Gloucestershire game may have been tense, there was a feeling of renewed optimism around the Surrey headquarters, and Smith was certainly no small part in that.
He was all smiles as he added 103 to the scorecard before eventually falling lbw to the bowling of Benny Howell. He announced his retirement from South Africa in March, but at still only 33 years of age, his national side might rue what was something of a premature exit. Cricket South Africa admitted to being shocked at the time of the announcement of his departure.
Having been captain for 109 of his 117 Test caps, the former Proteas skipper made over 9000 runs for his country, but having now confined himself to domestic cricket, his famous run-chases will now only come in Surrey’s colours.
An added bonus for Surrey is that following his retirement, he is able to count as a non-overseas player because of his Irish citizenship. However, his apparent new leash of life perhaps demonstrates that the time was not right to call it a day with his national side.
At the time of his retirement, South Africa coach Russell Domingo was forced to deny that Smith had stepped down because wicket-keeper Thami Tsolekile had been selected to face India against his wishes. Regardless of his motives, though, Smith will surely be missed in their camp, as South Africa have developed an increasing dependency on AB de Villiers in his absence, as was shown in the T20 World Cup.
Smith’s announcement was greeted by a candid acceptance that like Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar before him, now was the time for the batting greats of the modern game to gracefully bow out. Yet, in this case, one has to wonder whether that decision was taken prematurely, as his latest sparkle for Surrey has suggested. Smith is far from over, and Cricket South Africa may be left to rue letting him go so easily.
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