Kass Naidoo

Should Smith be dropped?

2007-12-07 08:58
<b>Sport24 columnist Kass Naidoo. (File)</b>

Sport24 columnist Kass Naidoo. (File)

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Kass Naidoo

... off for a few weeks on a quiet idyllic island-style resort, where the medical attention is soothingly first-class, and the communications infrastructure is quaintly yesteryear, because frankly; which of us would want to continue as captain, given what he's been put through?

Some people ask why I don't mention Smith's "bad form" in my columns. He's gone through a relatively bad patch with the bat. Which batsman hasn't? I agree with the informed position that he has become a valued player and captain.

Here South Africa has a captain who best epitomises that intangible "Aussie" fighting spirit which we all want our sportsmen and women to embody. Smith leads by example, and he doesn't duck his responsibilities.

Smith is a captain most admired outside of South Africa, and it's disheartening to hear how he's maligned by his own nation, when he's out there trying his best - for himself, his team, and his country. Yes, I know he gets paid well, and I believe he should be.

And the favourite gripe these days? A tired variant on the common tendency of some local commentators who fail to notice the intrigue of a game under way, and who insist on dividing their airtime between yesterday's golf, which elite school players on the field attended, and ... you guessed it: how a particular cricketer's technique is faulty. I tear my hair out!

Muttiah Muralitharan was showered with praise around the world when he broke Shane Warne's record for the most number of Test dismissals during the first Test against England this week, but will it finally put to rest criticism of his bowling action, which some continue to question?

Worst example of umpiring'

I doubt it. It's been 12 years since Darrell Hair first called Murali's action into question, when he "no-balled" him seven times during the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne.

At the time, Sir Don Bradman, widely regarded as the greatest batsman in history, called it the "worst example of umpiring" he had witnessed, and against everything the game stands for, adding it was clear that Murali did not "chuck" the ball.

But even after being cleared following exhaustive biomechanical testing, Murali continues to have his detractors. So, if consensus can't be reached on the legality of an action after 12 years, why would people agree on what is the correct batting technique?

I ask the question because both Hashim Amla and Smith are often criticised for having poor techniques, and it's harped on, match in and match out (almost by magic, talk of Amla's technique has however quieted down; is it because he scored back-to-back hundreds?).

The modern game doesn't give a fig about "strange actions", as many esteemed cricket writers have pointed out over the years. Cricketers with unorthodox batting styles included the great Don, Sir Clyde Walcott, New Zealand's John Wright, and more recently M.S. Dhoni, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Virendar Sehwag.

Highest level

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out why the "tried and tested" methodologies have been treated so popularly in history. The hallmark of cricket coaching, the MCC Cricket Manual presents the best way to maximise a cricketer's potential. It is highly useful for any cricketer to consider, but I doubt we'll find two coaches in the world that would apply it in exactly the same way.

And that's the crux of it: The manual is useful in building in a cricketer's base skills in the developmental stage, but it's no fun listening to mutual admiration societies pontificating on how that should be done, when the event is an international encounter at the highest level of the game!

Face it, these are the days in which the odd Happy Gilmore-style cricketer is likely to emerge, and if we continue to spend much more time debating the merits of his style, we're critically missing the point: the game.

Let's leave Smith and company and their "odd" techniques to their coaches (or eventually, to the selectors), and let's start enjoying the wonderful spectacle that is the game we love, the game we could all appreciate so much more, if only the educated MCC Manual-inspired drone could be replaced with a focus on the game.

And in response to some of your queries, how do I feel about Graeme Smith? I rate him as one of our top three current cricketers, and I only have admiration for his tenacity in coping with the rigours of captaincy since the tender age of 22.

The barest investigation of his achievements on a statistical basis, including his form in the past year, doesn't lend any credibility to calls for his sacking. Perhaps this reflects on the motives of the individuals calling for his head, and they should consider their true intentions.

  • Kass Naidoo is editor of gsport... for Girls!

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