Proteas’ skipper out of ODIs

2009-01-01 00:00

LONDON — South Africa skipper Graeme Smith is to return home after the final Test against Australia in a bid to recover from a chronic elbow injury.

The Proteas wrapped up the three-Test series with an emphatic nine-wicket win in Melbourne.

Smith will miss the two Twenty20 internationals and five ODI matches against Australia, and Johan Botha will captain the side in his place.

“We have decided to send Graeme home after Sydney to give him the best chance of getting ready for the home series,” said coach Mickey Arthur.

The three-Test home series against the men from Down Under begins in February.

Arthur said Smith has been in a lot of pain during first two Tests and it is amazing that he has continued to lead the team so well.

“He is four or five cortisone injections down the line. We thought the cortisone was going to work, but that is not going to be the case,” Arthur said.

Making history by winning Test series in England and Australia within the space of five months is one thing. Now the Proteas have the task of maintaining the awesome standard they have set for themselves.

This point was stressed by vice-captain Ashwell Prince when the team arrived in Sydney for tomorrow’s third and final Test.

“We have come a long way as a team,” Prince reflected. “We have won in most countries in the last year to 18 months. The only place we didn’t win was India where we came away with a draw.

“The guys are very confident of their own ability and very proud of what they have achieved and we are looking forward to build on that and go from strength to strength.

“The captain has already said that Australia set the standard over a decade and obviously we don’t want to dip after winning one series. We want to sustain that level of performance for a long period of time.

“It goes without saying that if you are at the top you want to stay there for as long as possible. That goes for any sportsman and any team. I am sure that will be the goal going forward.”

Prince added that the ICC international rankings are not the be-all and end-all for the team, and they would rather focus on events on the field. “We leave the rankings to the people responsible for them and we will just concentrate on what goes on on the field.”

He pointed out that the Proteas learnt an important lesson from the England tour when they let their performances slip after clinching the series.

“We have just come off a tour of England where we led 2-0 and were then a bit disappointing in the final Test.

“We don’t want to make the same mistakes and this third Test is obviously important for the rest of the summer.

“We still have three Tests to play against Australia at home and to win this [third] Test will obviously keep the momentum with us. Momentum is important and we certainly don’t want to give it back to them.”

Prince said he is disappointed to have missed the series so far, but he always knew JP Duminy would step in as competently as he did.

“It’s a bit weird, but obviously the team is more important than any individual.

“It would have been nice to play a part in the two matches, but having said that, it was a magnificent achievement by JP.”

Of his own chances of making Saturday’s Test, he said: “At this stage it is probably 60/40 in favour of my being fit. Whether I will be selected is another matter altogether.”

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