On Saturday I was sitting at my desk, watching the cricket, as one does when one's a sports writer, and the Momentum ad featuring a young Graeme Smith popped up on screen. You know the one, where he's, like, 12 and practising his batting at The Oval in London? Where he tells you not to be scared of his age?
My colleague, doing the commentary for the first Test against Pakistan, looks up from his keyboard and scoffs, (some artistic license will be taken as to the actual words): "He's so arrogant. I hate this ad. Look at him, thinking he's god's gift."
Now my friend is a reasonable person when it comes to most things, but not when it comes to Biff. He can't stand him, and we've had some intense discussions about it, but this time it progressed into a veritable screaming match over the course of the day.
Me: *saying something about Smith's 100th Test as captain, during the lunch break*
Him: "It's not a hundred Tests yet. Why is everyone making such a big deal about it? And did you see him lapping up the attention when they gave him a cake?"
Me: "But it is a hundred. It's 99 for South Africa and one for the World XI. And he's not asking for the attention, it's CSA throwing him a party!"
Him: "Ok, so next week they can celebrate 100 Tests. Did he even win the World XI game?"
Me: *Resumes typing, other people in office giggle*"
Ok fine. It wasn't 100 Tests for SOUTH AFRICA. Yet. Next week he'll celebrate that, when the tour moves to Cape Town for the second Test. Still, no other captain has been at the helm this long. But Mate think that's because no-one was brave enough to drop him.
My buddy feels that, "If Kallis had such a bad run like Smith did a few years ago he would have been dropped too. If he went for 10 games without any decent scores, like Smith did, then he should have been dropped."
Me: "But Biff has never gone that long without a good score!" In 2003 he went nine Test innings without a score over 50, and in 2006 he went for 13 knocks without a half ton, but both those relative slumps were bracketed by fairly strong centuries.
Him: "Ok fine, maybe not 10 games, but he's not that consistent and he never looks set."
Me: "His average in over 49! What more do you want from the man?!"
For the record, Kallis' longest run without a Test 50 is nine innings, early in his career. He averages around 56. He has played 50-odd more Tests than Smith.
The discussion then ranged from Smith's poor decision-making, like putting South Africa back in to bat instead of enforcing the follow-on, though when pressed for other instances, my stubborn buddy said, "Well, I can't think of them now, but it's true!"
At this stage, some other people, no big Biff fans themselves, began joining in. The argument about Smith's arrogance continued, with Matey citing various other captains as more humble characters.
Him: "Hashim Amla would be a better captain. He's humble and calm and everyone likes him."
Me: "But you're judging Smith as someone he was when he was 22, not who he is now. He's far less brash and blunt. Anyway, Amla doesn't want a leadership role at all!"
Him: "I don't care, he's still got that face that irritates me. He's not the 'best' captain ever. Why do people keep calling him that?"
Me: "I think it's in terms of time spent in the job. Look at us, we're the number one team in the world and he's been there for most of the past 10 years."
Him (refusing to concede that point): "Still, there were way better captains than him. He's not the best."
Other colleague: "Dude, you had me on your side in the beginning but now you're being unreasonable. You can't compare eras".
Volume of discussion is now beyond friendly banter.
Me: "You're just pissed cos he blocked you on Twitter, after you probably said something douchey to him!"
Him: "Ya, well... He deserved it. And he has a stupid, big chin!"
Me: "Oh my word, shut up and commentate!"
Awkward silence. The ad comes on screen again. All you can hear is Biff's voice, emotional music and keyboards clacking. Sometimes it's better just to shut up and type.
Lindsay du Plessis