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Arthur quits but insists it’s not about Smith

For those watching Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique put up Bangladesh’s best ever Test partnership for any wicket against India on Tuesday and thinking, “Ouch! South Africa are nearly here”, here’s some happy news. Kadambari Murali Wade reports.

cricket Updated: Jan 26, 2010 23:18 IST
Kadambari Murali Wade

For those watching Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique put up Bangladesh’s best ever Test partnership for any wicket against India on Tuesday and thinking, “Ouch! South Africa are nearly here”, here’s some happy news.

They’re just as messed up as we can be, even with our injury handicap. South Africa coach Mickey Arthur has quit just days before the team comes over for a two-Test, three ODI series. The Proteas are expected to get to India on Sunday.

Reports from South Africa suggest that serious “irreparable differences” with skipper Graeme Smith led to Arthur, one of world cricket’s most high profile coaches, quitting well before his contract ended. But Arthur himself said that wasn’t true.

“This is not about Graeme,” he told the Hindustan Times from East London on Tuesday evening. “I have absolutely no issues with Graeme. We had and have a very sound relationship. It will all come out in the press conference tomorrow, as he’s flying down to keep me company.”

So why did Arthur quit right before a series heralded as a match-up between the top two Test teams in the world?

“Is there a right time to quit? I just thought the team needed another voice. Things weren’t working out as I thought they would, there were issues that needed to be discussed and hadn’t been and I just felt it would be better that someone else take over and try and sort things out and it was best that they start now.

At the end of the day, it’s the team that matters.”

Arthur, who has been with South Africa since taking over from Ray Jennings in 2005, said his decision to quit was not taken overnight.

Interestingly though, he also said that he had not informed anyone in the team, including seniors and long-time travelling companions, Smith and Jacques Kallis, in advance. Arthur reportedly sent an sms to members of the team on Monday night.

“They were all very disappointed of course. We’ve been more than just a team, we’ve been family to each other for quite some time and I’m very proud of what we achieved together. But at the same time, this decision had to be made. I woke up today stress-free after very long. It felt very good.”

And that might be so, as reports indicated that matters between Arthur and Smith had reached a nadir.

“The problem might have been compounded by Smith’s close relationship with team consultant Jeremy Snape,” said an SA cricket insider. “Snape and Arthur didn’t always see things the same way and that might have influenced Smith.” Snape, like Smith, is an integral part of the Rajasthan Royals set-up in the Indian Premier League.

Meanwhile, what next for Arthur? He said he “doesn’t know yet”.

“It was very good of Cricket South Africa to pay me my contract in full (it was due to end in April 2012). For now, I am planning to take a break and relax.”

“Whatever I do next though, it will be in cricket. Maybe the IPL?” he ended, laughing.

Gary Kirsten’s Indians, like many of us, will probably be waiting to hear more from Wednesday’s press conference in East London, which will also be addressed by CSA chief Gerald Majola.

Meanwhile, reports said that former pacer Corrie van Zyl was likely to be appointed as Arthur's stopgap successor for the India tour next month.