Graeme Smith brings stardust and steel as Surrey rebuild after turbulent year

 

At a stage of his career when most players are seeking to lighten their workload – and boost their bank balance via a brisk crash, bang, wallop in the Indian Premier League – Graeme Smith has gone the other way.

This summer he has ignored the IPL, and the sizeable financial rewards it offers, to make an improbable return to county cricket. On Wednesday he will lead Surrey for the first time, the start of a three-year contract tying him to The Oval during the English summer – in between which he will continue to captain South Africa. At the age of 32 he may well end up playing more cricket than ever.

The first approaches to recruit Smith to Surrey’s cause – a notable coup after four years in the IPL – were made by Alec Stewart during South Africa’s Test at The Oval last year. The death of Tom Maynard, and the effect that had on the squad, means it is not a straightforward leadership task. Questions have since been raised about the lifestyle of some of the younger players in the squad.

“I don’t want to come in guns slinging,” said Smith. “It’s important for me to get to know the players. The job for us from a leadership perspective is to create a culture, you’re not going to lock guys in handcuffs for six months, people need down-time. It’s about creating responsibility, team culture, respect for what you are part of. Hopefully with adding a few more experienced players to the squad, there’s better direction for the younger guys.

“One thing I’m grateful for is the  hierarchy were being pretty honest about things and haven’t hid anything away from me. If we can come out of such a tough time and be successful, it speaks volumes for the club and for the type of people we have. Obviously there’s still a lot of emotion over Tom’s death. A lot of the players were close to him and that’s understandable. None of us are going to forget where we’ve come from but we have a chance to create a new environment for Surrey cricket.”

Smith is likely to be absent through part of June during the Champions Trophy; Ricky Ponting will be a stellar stand-in. Ponting, Smith and Kevin Pietersen are expected to line up  together in the county’s Twenty20 games. It will bring much needed stardust to the county game.

Pietersen, who has yet to return to county duty as he recovers from his knee injury, and Smith have had a fiery relationship in the past but the latter insists it is repaired.

“I’ve played  a lot against Kevin,” Smith said. “Both of us were young and intense. Being South African added to the problems we had. But I’m looking forward to getting to know Kevin off the pitch. As we both got older and more experienced there’s been a lot more mutual respect.”

While his focus is on Surrey, Smith won’t be forgetting the national cause. He wants to “create something special” for the South Africa side he has led for more than a decade. This winter Smith captained the team for the 100th time as they took a firm grip on their place on top of the world rankings.

It is from England’s experiences when they led the rankings that Smith is determined his side learn. After reaching No 1, England were horribly beaten by Pakistan in the Middle East and their form has fluctuated since. Next up for South Africa is the same challenge in October.

“I would love to be part of something special,” said Smith yesterday. “The team is sitting on the point of having a chance to create something special, especially the Test side. If we can have a successful run in Dubai/Abu Dhabi after a long lay-off we give ourselves a great chance to do well in all cricket for a period of time.

“England unravelled in Dubai/Abu Dhabi after a lengthy lay-off. I do see those conditions as a big challenge. The strength we’ve had is our away record is probably better than any other team that has the ranking. We have not lost a series away from home since 2006. World cricket is close at the moment and teams play very, very well at home. Winning in England then winning in Australia was a big stepping stone for us.”

Foreign fields: Overseas captains

Derbyshire: Wayne Madsen (SA but now England qualified)

Gloucs: Michael Klinger (Australia)

Leicestershire: Ramnaresh Sarwan (West Indies)

Middlesex: Chris Rogers (Australia)

Surrey: Graeme Smith (SA)

Glamorgan one-day captain: Marcus North (Australia)

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little