Pollock leads praise of 'incredible' Smith

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The Independent Online

The name is common enough, but Graeme Smith is an uncommonly good cricketer, good enough to earn praise from the great and the good in the South African game.

Graeme Pollock, himself a left-handed batsmen of renown, could not find enough superlatives with which to shower South Africa's 22-year-old captain.

"His performance is absolutely incredible," said Pollock, now 59 and the batting consultant to the squad, a role that would appear to be somewhat unnecessary in the light of what has so far unfolded.

"People have been querying whether Graham was good enough to hold his own as a player, apart from taking on the captaincy. His innings in the first Test and another double hundred today is as good a performance as you could expect from anyone and answers the doubters.

"And the really great thing is that it is going to overflow, it is going to help him as a person, as a captain and it is going to help his confidence as well. And of course that all rubs off on to the rest of the team and should have the effect of making them play positive cricket."

The former opening batsman and South Africa captain Ali Bacher was even more effusive. "A sporting hero has been born in South Africa, and the country needs somebody young, fresh, enthusiastic and committed.

"Graham Smith has done extraordinarily well. When I see him on television his face shows what I can only describe as ferocious determination. This is a guy who you know will climb Everest for South Africa.

"You need heroes who can impart the right values and attributes to the youngsters of the country and that is what he is doing. He is phenomenal."

The timing of Smith's run of form is a crucial factor, according to Pollock. "It was a critical time for South African cricket, when Smith was appointed, one I thought was questionable at the time but has since proved to be right.

"We had just had two bad series against Australia and did not do as well as expected in the one dayers. It had reached the stage where the public was asking where we were going. South Africa therefore needed to produce the goods."

In Pollock's 23 tests before South Africa was isolated during the apartheid years, the middle order batsman averaged more than 60 runs, with an impressive seven hundreds, including what is generally regarded as one of the finest Test innings -- the 125 against England at Trent Bridge in 1965, helping the tourists win the match and the series.

Some 38 years later, Smith would appear to be playing as important a role, but Pollock, in his consultancy role, is not attempting to take any credit for the South African run machine.

"I have not had to tweak Graham Smith's batting at all. I would hate even to contemplate it," he said with a shudder. If it ain't broke don't fix it, and Smith is definitely not bankrupt of runs or talent.