Graeme Smith feels England would start favourites against the Proteas

"The team hasn’t looked like it’s got a spark or it hasn’t looked in control of what they’re doing since they’ve been in the UK, so the four-Test match series is huge," he said.

Graeme Smith
Former South African cricketer Graeme Smith. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Sameer Allana

Freelancer Correspondent

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The Test series between England and South Africa promises to be a stupendous affair with two new captains walking into Lord’s on Thursday. While it’s going to be the beginning of a tenure for Joe Root, Proteas would have Dean Elgar leading their side in the absence of skipper Faf du Plessis.

Speaking about the series, former Proteas skipper Graeme Smith wasn’t too optimistic about South Africa’s chances in the Test series. He remarked that England would be favourites to win the series as they were in a better position. He also hoped that the visitors prepare well.

Uneasy about the series

“To be honest with you I’m a little bit uneasy about this Test series. Since we’ve arrived in England, if we’re honest, the team has looked flat; it has looked like something is missing.”

The South African cricket team has been going through a lean patch at the moment. Firstly they have lost the ODI and T20I series, also they didn’t have a great tourney in the Champions Trophy. Du Plessis’ absence may hurt them, while Russell Domingo’s position as the coach isn’t secure either.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty around that squad at the moment. Russell’s job, we’re not sure whether he’ll be coach at the end of this series; Faf is at home, so there’s a lot of leadership uncertainty,” Smith said.

AB is ready to retire

Adding to all that, AB de Villiers, their best batsman over the last decade is going through the rigours of too much cricket and decided to take a rest for the Test format. Graeme didn’t refrain from commenting on the ABD issue.

“I think that AB made a decision quite a while ago, when I look at it, from his body, from his family from the amount of travel and the workload that he didn’t feel that he could compete at all three levels of the game. After 106 Test matches, it looks like he’s ready to retire from the longer format of the game. He’s set himself some goals and he’s come out publicly and said that he wants to go to the 2019 World Cup and he wants to win it, if that’s the last goal that he’s got, then people have to respect that,” the former skipper added.

Hence with all the uncertainties around, the team won’t be able to present their best bet as they step into Lord’s tomorrow. While the energy levels are expected to be high, the Proteas know where they’re lacking. Graeme Smith addressed the concerns South Africa might face in the rest of the summer.

“The team hasn’t looked like it’s got a spark or it hasn’t looked in control of what they’re doing since they’ve been in the UK, so the four-Test match series is huge. It will be a lot of pressure, it’s very draining, it’s a long tour, so the leadership of that group and how they come together tactically, mentally and emotionally in terms of dealing with the pressures of playing in front of large UK crowds, the UK media – those are the things that I guess worry me a little bit,” he further added.

When asked about the coach if there was a change required to improve South Africa’s prospects in the future, Smith commented, “I haven’t got a decision on it yet. To be honest with you I heard that he was looking to move away, a period ago, to maybe move into a less pressurised job maybe like the SA ‘A’ job,”

“I don’t know if that’s the case but that’s what I heard a while ago, whether that’s true or not I don’t know, that’s a decision that he will need to make. He hasn’t really been open and honest and come out and said “I want the job” unless I’ve missed it, which has been surprising to me,” he stated.

Smith further went on to say that the PR of the South African team has below par in handling the AB or the coach issue. “There are obviously conversations that have been had behind the scenes. These are just my thoughts but it’s just been this floating and it hasn’t been dealt with and there’s been no direction on a lot of this stuff.”