Friday, 13 November 2009

Grim Smith 1, Strauss 0... and Swannie's moustache

GRIM SMITH won the opening battle of the Boer War in Johannesburg yesterday, blasting England captain Andrew Strauss for not wanting to play in tonight’s Twenty20clash at the Wanderers.
Grim, spelt Graeme, may just have done his rivals a favour by calling Strauss’s non-playing role into question yesterday — England’s Johannesburg-born captain Strauss is now considering playing after opening bat Alistair Cook succumbed to a virus overnight.
Smith will no doubt take the credit for that. He’s that sort of bloke.
He has been in charge of the Proteas since the departure of the disgraced and now-departed Hansie Cronje five years ago. And he has come a long way since his first clash with England at the tender age of 22, when his record-breaking batting spoke louder than his clumsy words.
As the two nations go into a torrid schedule of 11 showdowns in 10 weeks, Smith — who has taken his team to No1 in the world rankings in both forms of the game — saw fit yesterday to have a go at Strauss’s decision to miss the two Twenty20 internationals this weekend and give the captain’s armband (if only cricketers had them) to Paul Collingwood.
Having scored 72 and 117 not out in England’s opening two tour wins, there are those who feel Strauss might have made the difference when England were all out for 89 and crushed by four wickets in a Twenty20 warm-up against South Africa A on Tuesday night.
Smith, who averages over 50 in Tests, said when asked about Strauss’s reluctance to play in the shortest form of the game: “It does surprise me. It’s very difficult to keep chopping and changing and I think it will be difficult for your coach Andy Flower to be working with a different captain with a different outlook.
“Who handles team meetings, who runs the show? Those are questions it’s difficult for me to answer but it must be an interesting dynamic within the side.
“He’s scoring runs, he has been successful in one-day cricket over a period of time, maybe it’s something he is reassessing in his own mind but it does surprise me that on a tour like this having started so well that he’s not playing a part.”
Smith won’t have it all his own way on this tour though. The last time the pair met, Strauss was the runaway winner.
It was a Champions Trophy qualifier at Centurion last month, an injured Smith needed a runner and the England captain said no.
Despite a Grim ton, South Africa were comperhensively beaten and the hosts crashed out of the competition.
Smith insists: “There are no personal hard feelings. It is going to be competitive. I guess we’re trying to work out at the moment how Andrew is going to go about things. He has been a very quiet individual whenever we have played against him, almost stuck in the background, a clean and tidy type of character.
“I think he is trying to be a lot sterner and tougher in his ways and maybe he thinks the England environment needs that. He is much more outspoken now, I guess the captaincy does that to you so it will be interesting to see how he goes this summer.”
On a less serious note comes news of Graeme Swann’s moustache, another stunning exclusive. You may need a magnifying glass and spectacles, but it IS there, stubbornly clinging on just above the top lip as England warmed up for tonight’s Twenty20 clash against South Africa in Johannesburg. Swann himself twittered last night: “Oh dear, my so-called ’tache is a disgrace. A semi-ginger, patchy disgrace! Still I must stick with it... at least until ordered to shave!” A less light-hearted twitter from Swannie this week reads: “‘This part of Joburg is safe as houses,’ said our liaison officer. Round the next corner? Bullet-ridden car, news crews, body bags!” Paceman Jimmy Anderson echoed that sentiment: “Just seen the aftermath of a shooting near the hotel. Cars full of bullet holes. Very scary.”


  1. Neal, I read this article you wrote in the London Lite (RIP) and was a bit disappointed. I know your article was called "Smith wins first battle of African showdown", and I wasn't aware of your South African background before getting onto your site, but I was shocked by the cheap digs you were having at South Africa's captain.

    Firt up, why Grim? Are you such a crap journalist that the best you can do is have a go at his name? He's a likeable guy and very friendly, so I must assume you're just trying to drum up cheap animosity before what will be a highly charged cricket tour. Having a go at the captin's name is lazy journalism.

    Then you have a crack at his integrity ("He's that sort of bloke.") without anything to back it up, and you throw in a reference to controversial ex-skipper Hansie Cronje for added cheap controvery value. That's akin to journalists making reference to Henry VIII every time they mention the monarchy.

    You claim that Smith "saw fit yesterday to have a go", but in the interview snippets it proved that Smith was measured in his comments and diplomatic in response to questions he no doubt recieved from other (obviously sharper than you) journalists about Strauss missing the first game.

    To be honest, it looks like you had no clue what angle to take when you wrote it, praising SA on hand and having a dig on the other. I can't decide if you don't like Graeme Smith or if you're just an idiot. Normally I wouldn't care, but it got a high visibility spot in a well-circulated newspaper. I only hope fans of both teams recognise your crappy sensationalist journalism for what it is.

  2. Great reply Steve, pulled me up short. Grim? He certainly is at times... don't try telling me South Africa has always been universally behind the boy from KES. He's not everyone's cup of tea. But he's a magnificent cricketer and has taken South Africa to the pinnacle despite all kinds of problems the Aussies never have to deal with. I stand by my assessment of his comments yesterday. Problem is, I'm not out there at the moment, so you're right I can't really assess just how much he's come on since that first tour, when he was inarticulate and inexperienced. I hear he's learnt a lot in five years. The reference to Hansie wasn't a cheap shot, simply pointing out he was an emergency stand-in, introduced too young when Shaun Pollock was crying out for the job. Oh, and as for crappy, sensationalist journalism in a well-circulated newspaper... sadly, that was the last edition of the London Lite. It closed today. But I'll be writing the tour for the Standard as a freelance. And I'll be there, closer to the action. Hope you give me another chance!