After a hectic few days of interviews and public appearances to mark his 100th Test captaincy, Graeme Smith looked forward on Thursday to getting back to the core business of leading the South African cricket team in the first Test against Pakistan starting at the Wanderers Stadium on Friday.
“It has been emotional and humbling,” Smith said of the outpouring of praise and public adulation that preceded him becoming the first man in history to captain a team 100 times in Tests.
“When I wake up tomorrow, turning 32 and leading South Africa out is going to be one of the proudest moments in my career and my life.”
He said playing his 100th Test against England at the Oval last year had given him a “little taste” of dealing with a major milestone.
He was proud to have achieved success then — he scored a century and South Africa won by an innings — but said it was different this time because it was on home soil.
“The advantage then was that I was in a foreign country and I was able to create a little space. Being in South Africa over the last few days has been incredible. I have been walking around in a constant buzz.”
Smith said he felt that resilience had been one of his main attributes as a captain after being given the job in 2003 at the age of 22.
“The last five to six years is the time I have really felt in control of the leadership, the direction of the team and what it entails to be Proteas captain.”
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“From a team perspective, winning back to back in England and Australia (in 2008 and 2012) is probably the great achievement. The other thing I am proud of is being able to perform in my own game. Opening the batting is tough.”
He said he regretted not having been able to lead South Africa to a World Cup title but hoped still to be part of a successful World Cup challenge as a player, having given up the one-day captaincy after a failed 2011 campaign.
The aftermath of the World Cup, when he was criticised for not returning with the team, had been a low point, he added. “My own self-esteem and confidence took a whack.”
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq he believed his team could rise to the challenge of meeting the number one-ranked South Africans on what he said looked like a good pitch, with pace and bounce.