Smith to put aside hype and focus on cricket
Preparing for his 100th Test as a captain, South Africa’s captain Graeme Smith said he would cast aside the hype surrounding him when he leads the team onto the field in the opening Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers today.
“The outpouring of emotion and love from the fans, wherever I’ve gone over the last few days, has been incredible but come tomorrow (today), I will be focussed on the match,” Smith said in Johannesburg yesterday.
He said the team’s training sessions had been tough and hard and had also acted as a reality check.
While he was an experienced campaigner, Smith said he also had to ensure the team was not caught up in all the emotion.
“It’s always a challenge to keep the team focussed but there’s a good maturity in the group.
“We’ve had a lot of success of late, with some incredible achievements and milestones being reached and I can feel their pride and energy,” he said.
“The way they’ve prepared and gone about their work has always been professional so we will go out there tomorrow and put our plans into play. Hopefully, we’ll have a good day-one and it will kick start a good Test match for us.”
Smith said they would assess the pitch in the morning before deciding on a final XI, but he would be surprised if they went into the game with five seamers.
“We’ve got good experience of playing at the Wanderers and how we think the wicket will play throughout the five days, but we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow,” he said.
“On the Highveld, the ball does tend to swing a bit more and the wickets have good pace and bounce. The public love to see the ball flying miles and and it creates a good atmosphere in the stadium – but for us it’s about being clinical and understanding what we need to do.”
While he would like to win the toss, Smith felt the team was up to the challenge no matter what choice was thrust upon them.
“It’s part of the leaps we’ve taken as a team that we don’t spend too much time stressing over those things.
“We feel we’re good enough to handle whatever comes our way and, over the five days, we can be resilient enough to handle it as we have the skill to match up in all departments.”
South Africa last played Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in November 2010 where both Tests were drawn.
Pakistan’s captain Misabh-ul-Huq took over the reins on that tour and had won nine of his 17 Tests in charge.
“I wouldn’t say it has been tough captaining Pakistan, I have really enjoyed it and the guys are responding well to me,” Misbah said of a team with a reputation for being inconsistent.
“Playing against the top side in the world, in their home conditions, is a good chance for us to improve as a team.”
He said it would be the biggest challenge his team had faced over the last two-and-a-half years and they had to back themselves and their abilities.
“We’ve just come off our domestic season and have completed a recent tour to India so everybody knows what to do. It’s just a matter of showing character and putting up some good performances.”
While the visitors would be without Taufeeq Umar, who had to return home with a stress fracture, Misbah said the youngster Nasir Jamshed had shown a lot of potential and was likely to make his Test debut today.
“Nasir is a really gifted player and has played some very good knocks against top quality sides. He’s shown a maturity and is improving day by day. With the kind of talent he has, he can make a difference.”
On the hype surrounding giant seam bowler Mohammad Irfan, who stood at over seven foot tall, Misbah did not rise to the bait.
“I think we’ve got some other surprises as well, wait and see.”