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‘Smith needed by SA’

Calcutta: Graeme Smith’s decision to retire has surprised Sourav Ganguly, who himself called it a day (at the international level) five-and-a-half years ago.

Sourav was then 36.

“Smith has surprised me... He’s only 33 and South Africa needed him at a time Jacques Kallis has also retired. Now, two pairs of very big shoes have to be filled,” Sourav, India’s most successful Test captain till Mahendra Singh Dhoni overtook him, told The Telegraph.

Kallis quit Test cricket at the end of last year, after the series against India at home.

As it was with Kallis, Smith’s decision (“the most difficult I have ever had to make in my life”) came out of the blue.

With South Africa being thrashed by Australia in the Cape Town Test, Smith didn’t get the send off he would have been hoping for.

But, then, sport is cruel.

Sourav, of course, had much praise for Smith. “An outstanding captain and an outstanding batsman... Only somebody special could have captained for over a decade and scored over 16,000 runs in Tests and ODIs.”

Smith is the only one to have captained in 100 or more Tests — a record 53 wins in 109 matches. Add 92 victories in ODIs and you have an incredible 145 wins at the international level.

Asked if captains have a shelf life, Sourav said: “It pretty much depends on the individual... Depends on how he copes with the pressure. A shelf life of 109 Tests would be great!”

Sourav was the India captain for five-and-a-half years, a period marked by some memorable victories overseas. Both in Tests and in ODIs.