Smith: ‘Excuses won’t help us’

2009-09-29 00:00

THE introspection into South Africa’s premature exit from the Champions Trophy started within half an hour of Sunday night’s defeat to England.

Graeme Smith, sweating and seething all at the same time, did his best to hide his acute disappointment, but here lay another broken dream.

His colossal 141 was in vain, a highest score that will forever remind him of the day that he went to war, and none of his soldiers backed him up.

And the scent of blood was very much in the air at Centurion’s conference room, where South Africa’s top brass sought to explain another doomed push for ICC glory.

“We were not good enough on the day, but credit to England for the way they played,” Smith said through gritted teeth.

At the root of Smith’s surly mood was Andrew Strauss’ refusal to grant Smith a runner in the latter stages of a tense contest.

“The world is round, and these things usually come back in the life of a skipper, so it will be interesting to see how Andrew handles it in future,” was Smith’s thinly veiled riposte to Strauss’ decision.

Mickey Arthur, the Proteas coach, was less diplomatic. Television screens showed him on the verge of pulling his hair out, and his mood was not improved at the subsequent press conference.

“It is diabolical. Why there are inconsistencies I don’t know, but we were highly disappointed by what happened out there,” Arthur said.

Strauss, for his part, said that he felt Smith didn’t warrant a runner as he should have been better prepared.

“I felt it was a conditioning thing,” the England skipper explained. “The umpires were not comfortable with letting him get a runner, and I didn’t think Graeme was cramping that badly to be honest.”

Smith, proving that his humour was at least still intact, said he felt that he had worked hard enough in the off-season not to be likened to the peerless Arjuna Ranatunga, who was famed for his impressive girth and almost mandatory call for a runner every time he passed the half-century mark.

Arthur was further infuriated by the fact that Strauss had granted Angelo Mathews of Sri Lanka a reprieve last Friday.

“It is something that the ICC has to look at, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.”

Arthur was not yet done, however, likening the Centurion pitch to the sub-continent and suggesting that as the home team they should have had more help.

Of course the events surrounding all South Africa’s matches being switched to Centurion have been well documented, and Arthur will not be sending Cricket South Africa a “thank-you” card, it seems.

The Sri Lankan team that thumped the Proteas in the opening game was cruelly exposed on the bouncier Wanderers track.

“We would have liked to take on Sri Lanka on that kind of track, instead of a tailor-made deck like the one we played on.”

Arthur also intimated that the ODI squad needs a shake-up, with the bowling department high on the priority list.

“A guy like Charl Langeveldt is certainly in our sights. We need skilled players, and if they are fit and performing then they will be roped into the set-up,” Arthur added.

Smith, at a loss to explain yet another sudden exit, was not about to look for any excuses.

“I think that the group of players we have is good enough and it is now time to stop talking about it. We need to go out and win one of these upcoming major events. We need to stop making excuses and just go out there and do it.”

Already, the Proteas were looking to their next assignment, which just happens to be against the English.

Asked if the events that shaped Sunday’s ending would add extra spice to the upcoming series, Smith did his best to contain his emotions.

“I don’t think a series between England and South Africa needs extra spice. We are looking forward to hosting them and this will just give us extra motivation.”

It is true that the series in November needs no extra hype, but the small matter of a runner will make the first handshake between the captains compelling viewing.

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