The decision to give Graeme Smith a two-year contract for the role of director of cricket has, for the most part, gone down well with fans and pundits alike.
Smith faces a hefty task, though. First, to help South African cricket navigate the uncertainty in the time of coronavirus. Then, once sport can return, he has to find a way to ensure all national teams are competitive on the international stage.
He is not the first-ever director of cricket, but as the first to perform the job in South Africa, he faces a unique set of challenges.
Smith has to play his part in fending off counties sniffing around for more Kolpaks and oversee the appointment of coaches for the U19 and Women’s Proteas, all while figuring out what he can do to improve domestic cricket.
The enormous scope of the task facing Smith means that he is likely to be judged on how South African teams do in major tournaments.
It isn’t immediately apparent when the next ICC tournament will take place, although organisers are hopeful of staging the T20 World Cup this year.
Smith will influence many areas of the South African game, but he can’t be held responsible for every pie he has his finger in. CSA will no doubt have targets and an established metric for measuring the director of cricket’s performance, but how Smith is perceived by fans and the media will influence CSA’s assessment.
The former skipper does seem invested in the task of restoring South Africa to its place among cricket’s elite, even if he has openly admitted reservations regarding the under-fire Cricket South Africa board.
To be successful, Smith will need to channel the same bloody-mindedness with which he came out to bat for his country with a broken hand. It won’t be all blood, guts and glory, though, as there will be times when an outspoken Smith will need to bite his tongue.
Smith has shown himself to be very media savvy in his time as director of cricket to date, taking care to manage both his own image and that of the South African cricket brand.
In the minefield that will be the next two years, he will have to play some games if he wants to get the real work done. There are positive early signs that Smith could be the perfect man for the task of leading South African cricket into the unknown.
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