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Wessels raises doubts over Smith's captaincy

Graeme Smith's future as South Africa captain could hinge on the outcome of the home series against Australia.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2006 18:54 IST

Graeme Smith's future as South Africa captain could hinge on the outcome of the home series against Australia, former skipper Kepler Wessels said on Tuesday.

South Africa lost the three-match Test series 2-0 in Australia and crashed out of the VB one-day series when Sri Lanka thrashed them by 86 runs in Hobart on Tuesday.

Wessels said South Africa's psychological approach failed in Australia, and said Smith's poor form was a big factor. He scored 155 runs in six Test innings against Australia and 166 runs in his eight one-day innings.

"In any team, if your captain struggles it's bad for the morale of the side," Wessels said.

Although he stopped short of calling for Smith's head, or that of coach Mickey Arthur, Wessels said South Africa had reached the crossroads.

"We will have to see what happens in the home series, it's crossroads time in that sense," he said.

"If there is improvement in the home series we could let the status quo remain, but if it doesn't go well we will have to have a look at some options.

"I think South Africa will play better at home. Hopefully their injured players will be back, which will make them a stronger team."

Wessels pinpointed the pugnacious Smith's habit of becoming involved in "verbal warfare" with the Australians as another reason South Africa struggled so badly.

"Australia's whole focus and emphasis is to unsettle the captain," said Wessels, who played 24 Tests for Australia during South Africa's isolation from international cricket because of apartheid.

"If you do that and he struggles, the team will follow. Australia do that every single time they play, particularly in Australia.

"When you sit in an Australian changeroom at the start of a series, that is always the strategy: distract the captain, get him talking, get him off his game.


"If he starts playing badly, and he only has to fail once or twice at the beginning of the series, they've got him and the pressure will take its toll.

"We played into their hands. What we should have done is taken Graeme Smith out of the front line.

"The management should have done the press conferences, all that stuff. South Africa should have done what (Australia captain Ricky) Ponting does, what (England captain) Michael Vaughan does, what all the other captains do: say as little as possible and keep yourself to yourself as much as you can."

Former Test all-rounder Mike Procter had some sympathy for Smith, saying injuries had robbed him of his best side.

"They have been outplayed, but they have also been very badly hit by injuries," Proctersaid.

"When you lose a player like (Jacques) Kallis, with his batting, bowling and fielding it's very unfortunate.

"(Shaun) Pollock hasn't been 100 percent fit, they were deprived of the experience of Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel is also out."

Australia arrive in South Africa later this month to play a 20-over international, five one-day internationals and three Test matches.

First Published: Feb 07, 2006 18:54 IST