Cape Town - Graeme Smith, with another looming shortly against India, has expressed his distaste for mere two-Test series for his Proteas team.
The No 1-ranked side in the world recently shared the spoils 1-1 with Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, and disappointingly for connoisseurs of the five-day game have an identically-structured follow-up against second-ranked India on home soil next month after a proposed earlier itinerary was slashed upon instruction by India’s BCCI controlling body.
There has been some delicate tip-toeing in recent weeks to ensure the tour takes place as all, with Cricket South Africa anxious not to irk their Indian counterparts further after the impasse, and clearly adopting a “grin and bear it” sort of stance.
But at the launch of a new Momentum Cricket Sixes event here on Monday, long-time national captain Smith was fairly outspoken on the issue in a chat with journalists.
He told Sport24 he agreed with the view that two-Test series often meant the danger of rather meaningless 0-0 or 1-1 outcomes (as happened in the Emirates), and that top-tier nations ideally should only play series comprising a very minimum of three matches.
“Yes, 100 percent; when it is at least a three-Test series it has a little more definition in your own mind.
“Ultimately it is up to the ICC (International Cricket Council), as the main stakeholders, to lead the game forward.
“As players, we are totally reliant on them, you know. We have no decision-making in these things and we would love to see them putting the game in good light, leading us forward into a good space.
“I’ve said before that as a Test team we want to be playing as many matches as possible. Obviously we are reliant on CSA and the ICC to create that for us.
“I can’t see how, as No 1-ranked side, the world wouldn’t want to see us playing as much as possible ... and we want to be involved in big series. That’s how we got to No 1: beating England in England and Australia in Australia.
“Those are the type of series we seem to thrive on. The more of those, the better for us.”
A positive development, Smith said, was the scheduling of the World Test Championship in England.
“It’s coming in 2017, although that’s a long way away still. It seems a step in the right direction; at least it’s been launched and the players are excited about it, although there’s lots of work to be done until we get there.
“We’ve got to (be conscious of) growing the depth in our Test squad; a lot of the current players in our side won’t be around then and you’ll need some extra guys. You need to have a mind on that.
“Right now, though, some outstanding, special cricket has been coming from the present bunch of guys and over a good period of time – we want to be playing tough series.
“Next in front of us is India, in what is a two-Test series. Obviously that’s disappointing but that’s just what we’ve got to do – and we’ve got to play well. It’s all we can really focus on.”
Smith lamented the long gaps the Proteas are sometimes experiencing between Test series.
“It is certainly hugely challenging. It was one of my worries going to Abu Dhabi after some six months away (from the format). It’s hard to recreate in such a short period of time; you could see the huge difference in us from the first Test against Pakistan to the second, performance-wise and even slightly in terms of attitude and commitment to our skills.
“Hopefully CSA in particular can (address the situation). I do understand that in World Cup lead-up periods it’s always tough; the World Cup will take up quite a large space in 2015.“But CSA also has a massive asset in the Test team, and hopefully we’ll be back playing more, rather than not playing (enough).”
*The Momentum Cricket Sixes, an opportunity for more “social” cricketers to play alongside various Proteas legends of the past and present, takes place at Claremont Cricket Club in Cape Town on December 14. Further details on www.cricketsixes.co.za