AB praises Smith for scoring ton
Proteas limited overs captain AB de Villiers was full of praise for opening batsman Graeme Smith after the former skipper found form at the back end of the one-day international (ODI) series against Sri Lanka.
South Africa lost by two wickets in the fifth one final one-day international at the Wanderers on Sunday, but Smith made 125 runs at the top of the order — his first century in 36 ODI innings.
After being severely criticised by the media and the public for his recent batting displays, the opener also contributed 68 in the penultimate match in Kimberley.
“I’m really proud of the way Graeme batted through [at the Wanderers],” De Villiers said.
“We all are — we’re really proud of the man — that’s the least he deserved and going forward he’ll take a lot of confidence and momentum with him to New Zealand.”
De Villiers guided South Africa to a 3-2 series victory over the tourists in his maiden one-day international (ODI) series as captain and was named Man of the Series as the top runs scorer from either side.
The wicketkeeper-batsman made 329 runs in the five matches at an average of 109.66, including an unbeaten 125 and 96.
He admitted, however, that it would not always be plain sailing.
“Captaincy is hard work but I’m enjoying it and it’s great that I’m leading by example at the moment,” De Villiers said.
“I know I will get my tough patches in the future and I’ll have to work through that, but I’m playing well at the moment and using that to my advantage.
“I’m still following the same game plans but timing it a bit sweeter than normal.”
De Villiers said he had become more aware, after his first tour as skipper, that the examples he set both on and off the field had a significant impact on the team.
“I realised that the guys feed off my energy and it’s very important for me to be calm and in control the whole time,” he said.
“Leading from the front, not only with bat in hand, and with catching and so on, but the way I present myself out there, has a big influence.
“It was really tough at times but I think it’s one of the most important things that I learned.”
In an unusual strategy, the Proteas rotated their middle-order batsmen depending on match situations.
“There is no set plan, and we will play it by ear on the day,” said the skipper.
“Gary [Kirsten] and I decide which individual is best suited to the situation and he will go out and bat.
“We’ll just mix it up as right- and left-hand combinations are also important when a spinner is bowling well, and it makes it a bit tougher for the spinner to settle.”
De Villiers said their philosophy to take things one step at a time would continue as the team prepared to embark on their tour of New Zealand in February.
“Our goal was to win both the tests and the ODIs against Sri Lanka and we did that,” he said.
“We could have won the ODIs a bit more convincingly but it didn’t happen that way.
“We’ll go to New Zealand and that’s a new challenge and our next goal.
“Obviously our long term goals are being number one in the world and winning a world cup.
“That’s a huge dream for all of us and hopefully we’ll get there, but for now, we’ll just focus on getting ready for the New Zealand tour and performing well there.”