Following the exciting draw in the third test match at Cape Town, The Village Cricketer met up with Graeme Smith* to get his thoughts on the game.
TVC: Graeme, hi, what a terrific end to a test match, I’d imagine though that you are pretty deflated.
GS: Thanks and haa. Ya we did cut it close for a while there. I thought for one moment we might win it, but all in all, we are pretty satisfied with the draw.
GS: Ya, for sure. The draw is the purest form of the game. We’d rather draw than win. It puts spectators on the seats for longer. We have recognised in recent years that it is better to have an exciting draw, you have to make it interesting because spectators have alternatives such as 20/20, but I think the side is adjusting well to this new era. You know, although we are one down in the series with one to play, there have been two hugely exciting draws, and we have an opportunity to either draw the final match or to end the series with a 1-1 draw. It’s very much alive.
TVC: It’s been all over the media that you have been unhappy with some of England’s antics this series.
GS: Obviously I don’t want to say too much about that. It’s not something we’d make a formal complaint about or even be seen to be bringing it to the attention of the officials, so we just had a quiet word with the match referee and tried to leak it to the media. All I can say is that, when you have a side like ours playing flat out and striving fairly for the draw, it is not really on for England to win the second test match. Spectators lost nearly a whole day’s cricket because of it. In the past England stuck to the spirit of the draw and tried as hard for it as we do.
TVC: To change the subject completely. How is the pool of young players coming into the South African side?
GS: It’s good. We identify at a pretty early age now players that have a natural aptitude for the draw and give them specialist coaching and support. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I mean in Jaques Kallis we have the most natural draw merchant in the game, and you don’t get those by chance. We also have players like AB, who is still young and slightly impetuous, but he is learning fast. You know though, it can also go wrong, Herschelle Gibbs came into the side and burned brightly. Too brightly really, we could never get him to bat long periods of time at less than two runs an over. We had to drop him.
TVC: England are playing several players that were born in South Africa. Would you rather they were available to play for South Africa?
GS: There are times when players, like KP, come along that are much more positive in nature. We managed to do a good job at weeding him out of the system and he moved to England. He has shown signs of maturing though, and now he gets out so that England aren’t able to chase down large totals for unlikely wins, and it means Collingwood is at the wicket sooner. It’s good for the game. I think we’d consider Jonathan Trott a loss to South African cricket. He is a fine example of a draw natural, batting steadily and taking time out of the game. Losing him was a real blow.
TVC: You seem to have some problems with your left arm spinner, he really didn’t bowl well today.
GS: Paul is in the top 10 of the world test rankings, so has proven he can bowl and play at the highest level. He has taken wickets and can spin the ball, in fact he has looked a real match winner on occasion. Luckily for us we were able to send him to Warwickshire and after a season with Ashley Giles he is now back to bowling for draws, keeping it tight and rarely threatening to take wickets.
TVC: Finally, can I ask about the quota system? Following the loss of some key players recent I’d image you are finding it pretty hard to get the balance right.
GS: You are absolutely correct. It’s tough to find a balance these days. I mean, we’ve not really fielded a ginger on a regular basis since Pollock was playing. AB and Paul Harris are close, albeit they are more dirty blonde than ginger. I think we made some terrific strides with the twelfth man in this game. He was a proper ginger, the type The Wisden Cricketer like to employ. I’m confident that given time we can uncover one and start meeting our ginger quota again. If not, we’ll recruit Paul Collingwood. He likes Cape Town and the night life here, and he loves a draw almost as much as we do.
* The role of Graeme Smith is played by an actor.