The Pros and Cons of a Smith return
Whenever a difficult decision needs to be made, like whether to move across the country or switch coffee brands, it's always advisable to make a pros and cons list.
So with the news that former South Africa captain Graeme Smith is considering a comeback, we ponder the good and bad of such a move. It probably won't happen, mind you, but just in case…
On the plus side
1) Tactical experience
With Hashim Amla seemingly struggling under the weight of captaincy, which is affecting his batting, having Biff in the slips would be handy for all involved. His captaincy experience, given he's the longest-serving skipper in world cricket, will give Hash and AB someone to bounce ideas off. We're not saying make Smith the skipper again, but at least he'd be around to whisper some words of advice.
2) He's an actual opener
Finding a number one to replace Smith has proven impossible for CSA, much like England have struggled to replace Andrew Strauss. They've even used Vernon Philander, for heaven's sakes. Now, ahead of the England series, they're going to stick with Stiaan van Zyl, while Temba Bavuma moves back down to the middle order. Quinton de Kock's not even in the squad.
A colleague, as I'm typing this, is ranting: "Just pick an opener! Anyone! Stop trying to convert a middle order batsman into an opener! Reeza Hendricks, Stephen Cook, even Andrew Puttick! Pick someone who has opened the batting for their whole career!"
3) He's young enough
Smith's only 34, which in Sangakkara or Kallis terms means he's got at least two or three years left in the tank. He retired last year to spend more time at home, and recovered from injuries, but that didn't work out so well, as the tabloids were only too happy to tell us. So if he gets fit enough, he could provide stability at the top of the order once again while the selectors find a viable replacement.
4) Some of the best hands in the business
Those huge hands would come in very useful in the slips. The cordon has suffered a dip in form, with Amla a chief culprit as we saw in India, and having Biff at first slip would put a few minds at ease, and make batsmen a bit more wary to go on the expansive drive.
Or maybe not…
1) Smacks of desperation
Like going back to your ex because it's cold in winter and you want someone to snuggle, recalling Smith would be a bit… sad. It's not going to last, it's a temporary stopgap, and it's preventing you from finding someone new to love and cuddle with. And it'll never be the same, you broke up for a reason, and you'll always be waiting for her to leave again. Which she will, and then you have to start all over again.
2) A band-aid on a bullet hole
The Proteas, at some point, have to figure out how to bat without Smith, and recalling him will just delay that and deny young players a chance to settle. Like England have used literally nine openers alongside Alastair Cook in the past two years, the Proteas will need to try and test someone new until they find a decent option. Someone will get it right, they just need a long enough run to gain confidence. cough 'QdK' cough
3) Amla's confidence will be knocked
While Smith's return could be good for the batting side of things, imagine what it'll do to Amla's usually serene psyche. He's been notably tense and unsmiling in recent months, and Smith coming back would be the ultimate slap in the face. Because players, even if it's unintentional, will always look to Biff in the field. Heck, you can imagine the umpire looking to him for the DRS T-signal by mistake!
4) What if he's rubbish?
All this being said, Smith could well be toilet upon his return. He's not played top class cricket in a year, and has added a few pounds. He retired on a relative high, averaging nearly 50, and a comeback could prove disastrous for his stats and his ego. If you go out on top, stay out. Go be a commentator.
Lindsay du Plessis
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