Cricket: Graeme Smith has retired … Is Brad Haddin next?

The retirement of Graeme Smith came as a shock this morning however on reflection I really can not think of a better time for him to take this step: he has been captain for 11 years, has lead South Africa to the top of the test match world and his form is starting to wane. He is going before his form has become an embarrassment and his place in the team questioned. Put differently he has gone his own terms.

The Smith retirement has gotten me thinking about who else might retire after this series and the name that kept coming into my head was that of Brad Haddin.

I am not saying that Brad Haddin should not be in the Australian team. For mine he should be in this team for as long as he wants. And that is my point: he has earned the right to pick when he retires.

Right now seems to me to be the perfect time though to exercise that right for the following reasons:

1. There can be no bigger high than destroying the English in the Ashes and then coming to South Africa, and one assumes, and winning the against the best in the world.

2. He is at the peak of his powers with the gloves whilst in this series we have seen a slight drop in his batting form.

3. Australia’s program of cricket sees them not playing test match cricket again until September of this year (if the future torus program stands up) which is a long time between top flight games.

4. There is no position in Australian cricket that has more depth than wicket keeper: Messrs Paine, Wade and Hartley could all step into Haddin’s shoes.

5. Unlike the Ashes, no one expects it, Haddin retiring, to happen here.

No decision has obviously been made and Haddin was overt in stating he was not retiring any time soon after the Ashes. That said: the “perfect storm” I refer to above makes me wonder if it has at least gone through his mind.

The next obvious moment that might lead to retirement thoughts for Haddin is the World Cup in 2015 in Australia. I remember though the torturous final games of the Ian Healy era behind the stumps when his batting and keeping both deserted him and I hope that his current dip of form with the willow is not a guide for things to come.

The first thing I will be doing in the morning, if the test match is still going, will be to check whether an announcement has been made, like the Smith announcement this morning. I am equally parts hopeful, because Haddin deserves to go out at the very top, and fearful, because I love the way Haddin plays the game, that I will wake to read such an announcement.

Australians in South Africa 2014: 3rd Test Day 3 … Reverse swing swings Australia’s way

Australia declared over night on 494 and sent the South African’s innings for what was the most important innings of this series.  By the end of day 3 Australia had again won the day and now are poised to win the series.

After the second test there was much talk about reverse swing and Australia’s lack of proficiency in that dark art.  When the ball started to “reverse” in the 27th over in the hand of Ryan Harris those in commentary first put the ball movement down to it hitting the seam before realizing that the Australian bowlers were in fact swinging the ball.  Such was the lack of expectation on the Australian bowlers.

Speaking of Ryan Harris, with a bad knee hanging on by a thread and awaiting major surgery, he charged in and bowled back to back spells that were the best spells by any bowler in the series so far.  His ball to extract Amla through the gate reminded me of his removal of Cooke in Perth.  Subtle movement at pace piercing the defence of one of the best batters in the world: that is what Ryan Harris does.

At the other end, Mitchell Johnson did what he had done since November.  He intimidated and he procured false strokes and acted as the perfect counter balance to Ryan Harris’ production at the other end.  I was one of the few people who questioned Johnson’s form line coming out of the Ashes, mostly because I considered his output in that series to more to do with England’s poor form than anything else. I have been proven overtly incorrect.

This has been a complete and absolute dismantling of the best team in the world by Australia’s newly rising line up.  It is South Africa’s turn now to counter punch.  If they do not then the game could well be over on day 4.

I wrote earlier about Graeme Smith’s retirement (  Nothing more needs to be said about that other than the fact that if South Africa ever needed something to play for on these final two days of the series they have it now.

A final comment: Faf du Plessis was quoted thusly in his press conference overnight on the topic of reverse swing:

“I must be honest, I was really surprised to see the ball reverse from their side,” du Plessis said.

“I think it was 27 overs when the ball started reversing, especially after rain and a wet outfield (from the day before). I was really surprised by that, so … let’s leave it at that.”

This sentiment was always going to arise after Warner’s comments in the lead up to the test match.  Whilst, du Plessis did not make a direct allegation against a particular player like Warner, in the interests of consistency I expect the ICC to have a look at the comments albeit I expect him to be exonerated.

Day 4 will again commence early to make up the time lost on Day 2.  The weather, according to the South African weather service, will be clear all day so we should have a full day of cricket to saviour.

Cricket: Graeme Smith retires

Graeme Smith, South Africa’s captain and opening batsman, has announced his retirement from cricket effective at at the end of this current test match at Newlands against Australia.

He said of his decision:

“This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life. It’s a decision that I have been considering since my ankle surgery in April last year. I have a young family to consider, and I felt that retiring at Newlands would be the best way to end it because I have called this place home since I was 18 years-old.

“I have always been someone who has left everything out there on the field for my team and for my country. I’m extremely honoured and proud to have had the privilege to lead so many wonderful players and to have been a part of building the Proteas culture to what it is today. It is a culture that every player can be, and is, immensely proud of,” Smith continued.

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the support from my parents and brother, my wife and children, my friends, my sponsors, my fans and to Cricket South Africa. I thank and honour the players who I have played with and those who have supported me and helped me to be the person and captain I am today. I have been fortunate to have had many highs, amongst them leading and being part of the best Test team in the world. I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I bid my career a fond yet sad farewell,” the 33-year-old added.

Two memories of Smith’s career immediately spring to mind as a fan from Australia: the first showed his absolute devotion to the cause of South African cricket when he came out to bat with a broken hand in Sydney in 2006 and the second showed his utmost respect for the game when he organised an honour guard for the retiring Ricky Ponting at Perth in 2011.

He did not have the best or most attractive of techniques but when he got in he was very hard to get out and his record shows his penchant for big runs.

As a captain he played a massive part in bringing the Proteas to the top of world cricket, particularly in the test arena.

Just like Jacques Kallis in the series before this one, this is a sad farewell to a giant of the game and another hint at a time for regeneration in cricket in the Cape.

Thank you for the memories Mr Smith.

PostScript: Already I am reading smug comments from Australian fans to the effect that Australia and Mitchell Johnson have “caused” another retirement. Such comments are not unseemly but arrogant. Can we let this great player retire on his own terms without the hyperbole please?