| SMITH: Playing it hard
Johannesburg: The South African World Cup squad welcomes Graeme Smith back into the thick of things at the Wanderers Sunday insisting that there will be no hard feelings despite an ugly and foul-mouthed confrontation between them last week.
Smith, called-up to replace the injured Jonty Rhodes, found himself at the centre of a volley of abuse from his national squad teammates when he was batting for his Western Province side against Shaun Pollock’s men in a warm-up game in Cape Town last week.
He stood his ground when he was dismissed because he claimed the fielding restrictions were being ignored and the delivery should have been called a no-ball.
Pollock and his men were not impressed as they pointed him towards the pavilion and angry swear words were exchanged between them. “That’s all in the past now,” said convenor of selectors Omar Henry. “The guys will welcome him back with open arms.”
Smith too was making conciliatory noises. When reminded that he had clashed with some of his teammates, Smith pointed out that when he played cricket, he always played to win, regardless of the opposition.
“Cricket is a game you have to play at 100 per cent all the time, even if it means getting into fights with your teammates,” he said.
But Rhodes’ broken hand has given Smith the opportunity to bid for World Cup glory and boost his already admirable average of 41 in one-dayers.
“It was the toughest thing I have had to deal with in my life,” said Smith of his original exclusion. “Getting a century in the Test (against Pakistan) immediately after that made it easier to deal with, and I was also amazed at the amount of support.
“I think I have learnt a lot, and have matured as a result of having been left out,” Smith said and added that he will make the most of his opportunity.
“I knew I was on the reserve list, so I had to keep in shape, and stay focussed,” he said. I played in three warm-up games, and have also been following an exercise programme.
“It felt horrible when I watched them walk out at Newlands for the first game against West Indies without me,” he said. “I felt shocked because Jonty is such an important part of the team. He is a very special person, and I feel very sad for him.”