Graeme Smith, born February 1, 1981, scored 9265 runs in Test cricket, with 27 hundreds. Of his 117 Tests, he led 109, the first of them at the age of 22.
For more than a decade he stood on the ground, a pillar for the side in the metaphorical sense as well as the physical. in the annals of cricket too, Graeme Smith stands towering above his countrymen as a hugely successful captain and one of the very best batsmen to boot.
However, for all the runs and the wins, the man was seen at his rawest and bravest best during an innings amounting to just 3 in a lost cause at Sydney, 2009.
He had broken his hand in the first innings and had retired hurt in the process. In the fourth innings, South Africa had to bat out time. Morne Morkel was sent out to open so that most of the established batting order could remain unchanged in spite of Smith’s absence. The eighth wicket went down with 26 overs still remaining. Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn then collaborated for a stubborn hour. Smith, his injury by then rendering him unable to dress himself, had his pads strapped on by his teammates and waited in full gear.
When Steyn fell there were still 8.2 overs to go. Smith walked out, this time at number eleven and proceeded to bat one handed. Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Nathan Hauritz did not really pull their punches because of the handicap. And Smith stalled them for 26 minutes and 16 balls. The 17th, bowled by Johnson, landed on a crack and jagged back through his defence. The match was lost with just ten balls remaining. Smith walked back, defeated in the game, but a hero in the ballads composed about the great game. The innings was played without painkillers.
Graeme Smith was a tower of strength. In more ways than one.