Graeme Smith feels that England are favourites for the Test series against the Proteas, which starts at Lord’s on Thursday.
The ex-Proteas captain, who led his side to a 2-0 series win the last time the Proteas toured England in 2012, was uncertain about South Africa’s chances in the series.
‘I think they [England] would start favourites, they just look in a better place at this stage. Let’s hope the guys [Proteas] get the leadership there and our team prepares really well,’ Smith said on the Power of Sport podcast.
The Proteas experienced a number of issues leading up to and during their tour to England, with Faf du Plessis having to miss out on the first Test due to the shaky birth of his first child, uncertainty over Russell Domingo’s position as head coach and uncertainty surrounding AB de Villiers’ Test future. This, coupled with an embarrassing Champions Trophy campaign, has left Smith sceptical about SA’s chances.
‘To be honest with you I’m a little bit uneasy about this Test series. Since we’ve arrived in England, if we’re honest, the team has looked flat; it has looked like something is missing.
‘There’s a lot of uncertainty around that squad at the moment. Russell’s job, we’re not sure whether he’ll be coach at the end of this series; Faf is at home, so there’s a lot of leadership uncertainty.
‘The team hasn’t looked like it’s got a spark or it hasn’t looked in control of what they’re doing since they’ve been in the UK, so the four-Test match series is huge.
‘It will be a lot of pressure, it’s very draining, it’s a long tour, so the leadership of that group and how they come together tactically, mentally and emotionally in terms of dealing with the pressures of playing in front of large UK crowds, the UK media – those are the things that I guess worry me a little bit.’
Smith refrained from commenting on whether Domingo should go or stay.
‘I haven’t got a decision on it yet. To be honest with you I heard that he was looking to move away, a period ago, to maybe move into a less pressurised job maybe like the SA ‘A’ job.
‘I don’t know if that’s the case but that’s what I heard a while ago, whether that’s true or not I don’t know, that’s a decision that he will need to make.
‘He hasn’t really been open and honest and come out and said “I want the job”, unless I’ve missed it, which has been surprising to me.’
Smith did, however, comment on the De Villiers saga.
‘I just think the PR around South African cricket in terms of handling the AB situation and handling the new coach situation.
‘There are obviously conversations that have been had behind the scenes. These are just my thoughts but it’s just been this floating [situation] and it hasn’t been dealt with and there’s been no direction on a lot of this stuff.
‘I think that AB made a decision quite a while ago, when I look at it, from his body, from his family from the amount of travel and the workload that he didn’t feel that he could compete at all three levels of the game.
‘After 106 Test matches, it looks like he’s ready to retire from the longer format of the game. He’s set himself some goals and he’s come out publicly and said that he wants to go to the 2019 World Cup and he wants to win it, if that’s the last goal that he’s got, then people have to respect that.’
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