Robin Scott-Elliot: Graeme Smith, as ever, shoots from the hip... but how will he lead Kevin Pietersen at Surrey?

 

When the topic was – inevitably – raised, Graeme Smith, sitting in the players' dining room at The Kia Oval, laughed and made a joke about how he thought nobody was allowed to talk about it at the moment. Whereupon he spoke frankly and interestingly about the whole mess.

Everyone wants to talk about Kevin, despite the England and Wales Cricket Board's apparent policy decision to wedge fingers in ears, shut eyes and hope it all goes away, a game plan not even the Football Association follows any more. Alastair Cook was left in a ridiculous position on Tuesday when instructed not to talk about England during Essex's pre-season media day. Cook to his credit insisted he had to but still waited until the ECB backed down before giving his first thoughts on Pietersen since returning home from a winter not even his worst enemy would have wished on him.

Smith is no friend of an England captain – he has done for three since Nasser Hussain dismissed him as "whatsisname" in the fledgling days of his captaincy – and he does not appear overly impressed by Cook's leadership qualities.

Smith has played it hard, quick to seize on any perceived weakness. Just on Monday Angus Fraser spoke about how he believed Smith played a part in Steven Finn's deterioration as a bowler – it was Smith who kept drawing attention to Finn knocking over the stumps as he bowled. It got inside Finn's mind.

As a leader Smith had to learn on the job, cast into it at the age of 22 to captain a team losing on the field and beset by political issues off it. He had to deal with outside interference and while that rumbled on he made his team into the best in the world, scoring a ton of runs en route. He is an impressive man, a born leader. You can't imagine him waiting for his board's permission before speaking his mind.

When Cook first took over the captaincy he was the one who opened the door for Pietersen to return. It was a bold decision. Smith's suggestion today was that Cook and the rest of the England management should not have closed it so firmly now. Pietersen is a match-winner – can England, down and out, really do without him?

Yet there are times when someone just has to go, as Smith himself knows. When he took on the South African captaincy one of the first decisions he made was to ditch Lance Klusener. "Lance, as fantastic as he is," said Smith at the time, "can sometimes ruin a team. He can infect a team and bring down the youth."

This summer Smith will find out just what it is like to captain Pietersen. He spoke of the improvement in their relationship but it is one never tested by prolonged proximity. It will be fascinating to watch.

Smith's points about Cook – and the England management and team – hold weight. If anyone should know the hardships of captaining and opening it is Smith. He did it in 109 Tests. That Cook needs to score some runs is unquestionable. Ditto England can ill-afford to do without a match-winner. But as Smith's jettisoning of Klusener demonstrates, sometimes there is no other way.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick