GRAEME Smith is not in danger of falling victim to the hype that surrounds his record 100th Test as a captain, a moment that will arrive when he leads SA against Pakistan at the Wanderers on Friday.
Asked what it felt like to approach the “biggest day of your life”, Smith said: “My daughter might argue that she was probably the biggest thing in my life.”
The Proteas skipper will need more level-headedness where that came from to make it through the week with his head the same size it is now – particularly in the wake of the news he tweeted yesterday .
“… myself and Morgs [ Morgan Deane, his wife] are expecting our second child.”
Today, supporters will be able to offer their congratulations to Smith at an autograph-signing session in Johannesburg. The fans will sign a giant replica Proteas shirt that will be given to Smith during the Wanderers Test.
During the first Test, cameras will be assigned to capture spectators’ messages to Smith and replay them on the electronic scoreboard as well as on Cricket SA’s social media platforms – where a special hashtag has been created to keep the Smith love flowing.
Smith also turns 32 on Friday, and the crowd will be encouraged to sing Happy Birthday to him .
“It’s very difficult to put into words how I feel about this,” said Smith. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s great to feel how people have taken up this occasion. ”
If the marketing goes any more mad, the SA captain would be forgiven for forgetting that there is substance beyond the style of what he is about to achieve.
Not only has no one yet reached a century of Tests as a captain, no one besides Smith is anywhere near that milestone. His closest rival among active skippers, MS Dhoni, has led India 43 times.
Between Smith and Dhoni are the names of 19 men who, before they retired, didn’t make it to three figures despite being among the greatest players in the history of the game.
Allan Border, who captained Australia in 93 Tests, is behind Smith on a list that includes Clive Lloyd, Steve Waugh, Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Imran Khan, Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara.
Fewer Tests were played in their eras, but Smith’s story is no less remarkable for that.
In 107 Tests, Smith has scored 8624 runs at an average of 49.28 with 26 centuries. As an opener, he averages 50.23 – second only to Virender Sehwag 50.81 when he is batting at the top of India’s order.
“It’s been about overcoming a lot of up and down years, a lot of good times and tougher times, but to come through it in the end and achieve something like this is something I’m extremely proud of, and I know my family and my teammates are extremely proud,” said Smith.