Graeme Smith criticises Alastair Cook's 'stale' captaincy and England's decision to drop Kevin Pietersen

Former South Africa captain also questioned whether Stuart Broad shirked the responsibility of leadership during the World Twenty20

Alastair Cook needs to "answer important questions in his role" as England captain, according to Graeme Smith. The former South African captain labelled Cook's beleaguered side "stale", suggested England have made a mistake in jettisoning Kevin Pietersen and, just for good measure, questioned whether Stuart Broad shirked the responsibility of leadership during the World Twenty20, the final ignominious chapter in England's disastrous winter.

Smith did for three England captains during his long tenure in charge of South Africa – Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss – and has now passed an unimpressed judgement on the two incumbents, as well as questioning how England's management have handled Pietersen.

"[Cook] needs to answer some important questions in his role," said Smith, speaking at The Oval, where he will captain Surrey – and Pietersen – this season. "Do the players trust him? It's going to take a lot of energy [to rebuild after the winter]. Captaining and opening the batting is a really taxing job. He's also going to have to focus on performing, scoring runs – if he scores runs it will really help his captaincy.

"He knows the environment, he knows the direction he wants to take the players with whoever the new coach is going to be. Once he makes those decisions then he has to really back it and go for it."

Smith, who retired from international cricket following South Africa's defeat by Australia last month, said that he had initially been taken by surprise by England's rapid demise Down Under but, with the rot now set in, the need for change was pressing.

"To me, England look a little bit stale, they need new energy, they need a direction, someone to galvanise them," he said.

Smith has had several conversations with Pietersen, although no in-depth discussion yet as to what went on over the winter. Smith believes Pietersen remains a "match-winner" who should have been better handled by England's management.

"In any environment there are a lot of different personalities, so you need to be able to manage. That's part of being able to be a leader. I was initially very surprised [about Pietersen's axing]. I would have thought the environment could have managed him – a match-winner like that, if he's performing well and you get him motivated. You can't but help looking at the Twenty20 World Cup and feel he would have added value.

"I'm speaking from an outsider's perspective, but it is surprising if you have a really quality player like that who is not at the back end of his career – he is kind of in the middle of his career [and] still has a few good years left in him – that you would not have tried to make it work. If it was a guy in his last season and he is becoming grumpy then you start to look at things differently. But Kevin's fit, he's healthy, he's still performing well. It was surprising.

"It's always nice to have a player who can win you games single-handedly, it's nice to build teams around players like that. Players like that can win you a competition.

"International cricketers spend a lot of time on the road, a lot of time with each other and a lot of time in pressurised environments where they need to perform, so you can't expect to be rosy all the time."

During England's embarrassing defeat by the Netherlands at the World Twenty20 earlier this week, Smith, watching on TV, tweeted: "Could be mistaken but never saw Broad bowl in power play or death overs! Protecting himself?"

Asked to elaborate on that view, he said: "It was an observation: a high-class, experienced bowler not bowling in the toughest part of the game. I think there was a trend also in a couple of games. The challenge as a captain is you need to front up. You ask a lot of your players. You put them in pressure situations and you also need to take responsibility for that. I would be surprised if there weren't a couple of players saying, 'Why doesn't he bowl in those circumstances?' That's an important part of leadership, leading by example. I think he has the ability to lead by example so I was surprised."

On another of the casualties from England's winter, Jonathan Trott, Smith was more circumspect as he outlined the obstacles that lie in Trott's path following his "burnout" in Australia.

"Everywhere he goes, every interview he does, every crowd he plays in front of, every team he plays against is going to bring that up, so how he copes with that is the only important thing," he said. "In international sport nobody holds back so it will fall to him as an individual how he can handle that."

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions