Smith risks captaincy with plea for 'stability' to UCB

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The Independent Online

Graeme Smith decided to gamble with his job as South Africa's captain yesterday with a ferocious attack on the men running his country's cricket. He abandoned diplomacy in favour of candour in an emotional appeal aimed at salvaging the Test series against England.

Graeme Smith decided to gamble with his job as South Africa's captain yesterday with a ferocious attack on the men running his country's cricket. He abandoned diplomacy in favour of candour in an emotional appeal aimed at salvaging the Test series against England.

"A lot of things need to happen in South African cricket," said Smith after his side went 1-0 down in the series. "The new convener has different issues and the new coach wants different things to happen in the team but we have to start working towards something.

"The captain is just starting back with the same things he started six months ago. The UCB have to stabilise the key positions. The more you jump around, the worse things become. From the top down, from selectors to the coach, we need stability."

Smith might have been pointing out the obvious, but it was a risky position to take for a captain whose side have won only one of their last six Test series and now find themselves well placed to lose another. In their current capricious mood, it would not be wholly beyond the United Cricket Board to decide he ought to be the next to go.

So uncertain is the state of the nation's cricket that the team at present is being picked by a temporary convener of selectors in Haroon Lorgat, and organised by an interim coach in Ray Jennings. Lorgat has announced that he does not want the role full-time and will go in four months, Jennings wants the job but will have to oversee a sharp upturn in results.

Smith fears yet more player change. In the first Test, South Africa had two debutants and two more players in only their third match. It told in every case. He was intending to tell the selectors of his thoughts in a phone call yesterday afternoon, when he said he expected to be fully consulted without sounding wholly convinced.

He claimed that he and Jennings were getting on well. "He's a different sort of guy with different thought processes and it's good to have someone with a challenging voice and mind. He's definitely brought more hardness to the team.

"Our confidence in key situations isn't as good as it could be. One or two good days could make a real difference to us and this Test series has got a hell of a long way to go."

But the way things are it might not have so far after the Sunday when the second Test begins in Durban.

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