The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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I believe I can be a successful captain: Graeme Smith
- ĎIíve never had a role model... Iíve always tried to be myselfí

Dhaka, April 19: Heís smart, articulate and charismatic. Meet 22-year-old Graeme Smith, the second youngest ever to lead an international side.

Having taken over the reins from Shaun Pollock at a very critical juncture in South African cricket, he had promised a new era. He is still learning the tricks of the trade but is happy with the progress made in the tri-series here.

The South African skipper spoke to The Telegraph for about an hour this morning.

The following are excerpts

Q How big a surprise was the captaincy'

A After the World Cup, there were several reports in newspapers about the captaincy and my name was also thrown in. There was a lot of suspense for about two weeks and I was interviewed by the selectors and the UCB. Of course, I was very proud but I never spent time thinking about it.

How did the family react'

(After a pause) The family was proud but more nervous. I think they were more nervous after the decision came through ó they were sleeping at two in the night.

What crossed your mind when you first got to hear you had been named captain'

Nothing much but my heart did stop for a while! I was actually driving when Gerald Majola called to convey the good news. I suddenly had to pull up by the side and wait for five minutes and take a few deep breaths. I needed that breakÖ I didnít get home for a while. I just got excited.

What was the message to your teammates on taking charge'

I am trying to restore passion, discipline and tight bowling. Thatís a good base and from there try to build on the basics ó fielding, building partnerships, keeping a leash on the extras. Little things which we should try and control and keeping improving.

Who has been your role model as captain'

Iíve never had a role model as a player or captain. I might have liked a few but Iíve always tried to be Graeme Smith. Iíve tried to bring something new to South African and international cricket. Iím always looking to bring some freshness to the side.

How he manages to handle such responsibility at 22

A lot of people have said that I am older than I should be. I will probably have more grey hair in the next six months (laughs). I am willing to sacrifice things to succeed in this game. Leading my side is something I wished to do and I believe I can do that successfully.

What went wrong in the World Cup'

Itís difficult to pinpoint things. A lot of little things contributed to it. We canít think about it anymore. The more you think, the more you sink. We also tried too many things and couldnít get out of the hole. The pressureÖ little things, but there was a lot to learn from it. Hopefully in 2007 weíll be better placed to handle such situations.

How he looks at the scenario with so many youngsters in the side

The players will take some time to settle down. Itíll be a tough job and weíre prepared for the hard work. The England tour in three monthsí time will be a big test for us.

How tough it was to start with a defeat to India in the tri-series

I didnít sleep so well that night. A lot of things were going on in the mind. We made some mistakes on the field. It was a question of how quickly we learnt from that point.

How Shaun Pollock reacted at the first team meeting

Shaunís been fantastic. Not only is he an excellent cricketer, he is a very good man. He wished me all the best and said he felt relieved. Heís also promised to give more than 100 per cent.

Do you feel insecure'

I donít think so. The main requisites of captaincy are supreme confidence and willingness to trust yourself.

Where do you see South Africa five years from now'

You probably think I would say at the top of the world and thatís where we should be. We could, in fact, be there if we start getting things right in the team structure and perform to our potential.

Whether the team is yet to come out of the Hansie Cronje era

(After a pause) No, no. A lot of players who played with him have great respect for him and Iíve no problems with that. But we have a fairly fresh side and itís time to move forward and make a fresh beginning.

How long will Graeme Smith remain a bachelor

(Laughs) Probably for a long time. Thereís so much going on at the moment. I havenít set a date on anything. I sort of take it as it comes. Iím pretty hungry to be successful on the cricket field and it happens to be a part of my life. I donít have a girlfriend and wish to remain single at the moment.

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