Smith takes charge of World XI for Test
He is confident he can turn around the World XI's form in the six-day Test against the Aussies.Updated: Oct 10, 2005 16:55 IST
Inheriting a disheartened squad from Shaun Pollock after a limited-overs setback isn't new territory for World XI skipper Graeme Smith.
The 24-year-old opening batsman took charge on Monday, confident he can turn around the World XI's form in the six-day Super Test starting on Friday after the 3-0 loss to Australia in the limited-overs series.
Speculation about others having better credentials for the captaincy and that he's too young to lead a lineup of seasoned campaigners didn't bother him when he became South Africa skipper at 22. And it's not troubling Smith this week.
"I'm very comfortable with myself at the moment and confident in myself as a captain," said Smith.
"Three or four years in the national game and two years in the captaincy, it did come as a surprise. Obviously it's a huge honor and something I'm looking forward to."
Fellow South African Pollock took the brunt of Australia's comeback from an upset Ashes series loss to England, losing by 93 runs, 55 runs and 156 runs in Melbourne.
Smith, Proteas teammate Mark Boucher, Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and England fast bowler Steve Harmison will link with the World squad in Sydney on Monday.
Sri Lanka wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara, Pakistan's Shahid Afridi, West Indian Chris Gayle, South Africa fast bowler Makhaya Ntini and England batsmen Kevin Pietersen drop out of the squad that contested the one-dayers.
Smith replaced Pollock in 2003 after South Africa slumped out in the first round of the World Cup it was hosting.
At 22 years, 82 days, he was the third youngest captain in Test history after playing only eight test matches.
In his 31 Tests as captain he's 13-8 with 10 draws since his debut against Bangladesh.
He made his biggest impact in his first series in charge in England, blazing 277 in his first Test at Edgbaston and following it up 259 in the second Test at Lord's.
Smith's focus in South Africa is on rebuilding the team, something he'll continue in a three-Test series in Australia from December.
In the Sydney Test, he's hoping to harness the talent on offer and guide it in the right direction.
"You can't build a team overnight . . . but getting the roles, the intensity right," is crucial, Smith said. "They're world-class performers. It's about getting the best out of them on the day. The guys want to perform well, especially after these one-dayers. They want to turn it around and they want to leave winners. I think we can turn it around in the Test." Smith, who averages 55.5 in 39 Tests with 11 hundreds and 12 half centuries, said he's determined to be his own man, despite having five more experienced current or former skippers in the Test squad. "I've been given this opportunity and it's my job to make the most of it," he said. "That's all that counts for me. It would be stupid of me of me not to use the other players around me. Communication is an important part of my captaincy. Ultimately, I'm leading the team and I'll make the decisions." Smith made his Test debut against the Australians in March 2002, later creating a stir with his remarks about Australia's "sledging" tactics used to unsettle opposition players. He revealed what players like Glenn McGrath and Matthew Hayden said to him.
"I don't think I was on their Christmas card list for a while," Smith said. "I've done some naive things and made some mistakes, and I've also learned a lot in the last few years." Australia hasn't lost a Test series at home since 1992-93, when Brian Lara helped the West Indies to an impressive triumph.
First Published: Oct 10, 2005 12:03 IST