“We know better than anyone it's not how you start, it's how you finish”
I think these words pretty much sums up the career of great Graeme Smith. The former opening batsman and the captain of the most successful South Africa cricket team in their history. He is the only player in the history of test cricket to lead his side as a captain in most matches (108). As a captain, Graeme smith has scored 8659 test runs (the most by any captain in the history of cricket). He is only captain so far with a maximum of centuries (15), which have come in the winning cause. 53 the most number of test wins by Graeme Smith, the most by any captain and the fastest South African player to reach the 1000 (12 test) and 3000 (37 test) test runs.
What would be the reaction towards the team who's almost at the edge of losing its existence in cricket after the famous match-fixing incident of Hansie Cronje and to make things more difficult, South Africa was surprisingly out of the 2003 world cup Group stage round under the captaincy of Shaun Pollock who were the favourites alongside Australia to lift the trophy. South Africa cricket can be described in two eras pre Graeme Smith era and post Graeme Smith era. Back then, after this exit from the world cup the future of South Africa cricket was almost over as player like Allan Donald retired so the South Africa team was completely filled with youngsters. Just 8 tests and 22 ODIs, Graeme Smith was given the heavy task to lead the South Africa team across the formats under such difficult times. The decision to appoint Smith as a captain was heavily questioned by the experts who believed Smith didn't have enough captaincy experience.
Before the captaincy, Smith made his test debut against Australia in 2002 at Cape Town. In the match against Pakistan, Smith (151) was involved in record partnership alongside Neil McKenzie (228) for the first wicket of 368 runs which was later surpassed by the same opening pair against Bangladesh when these added on 415 runs partnership for the first wicket. It was the South Africa tour of England 2003, when Graeme Smith announced himself as a captain with vision. Smith registered two double hundreds in back to back test matches. Smith 259 at Lord's is the highest ever score by any visiting player so far and surpassed the record of Don Bradman 254 in 1930 at Lord's. In the first test match at Edgbaston, Smith score 277 runs the highest individual which was record for Six years before it was surpassed by AB De Villiers 278* against Pakistan. In the 2003 series, Smith scored 714 runs at an average of 79.33 (it is most runs in the series by any South Africa player after Aubrey Faulkner 732 runs in 1910-11).
Currently, Graeme Smith holds the record of most double hundreds in test cricket from South Africa (5). Not just the test captaincy, Smith was exceptional in limited overs cricket too as a captain of South Africa. Who can forget his captaincy in the most thrilling games in the ODI Cricket History in which Australia has posted a massive score of 434-4 in the 50 overs in the final game of the series. It was still those days when chasing 300 was impossible but Graeme Smith had other ideas that set the momentum for a memorable chase with the brilliant knock of 55 ball-90 runs and added on 187 run-partnership with Herschelle Gibbs. South Africa has chased down the target with 1 ball to spare.
But the performance which was highly appreciated by everyone in test cricket from Graeme Smith was during the Perth test match when South Africa chased down the target of 414 runs (the second highest run-chase in cricket history). It was the same test series when Graeme Smith came in to save the Sydney test match with a broken hand and injured elbow for which he received a huge standing ovation from the crowd. And it was under Graeme Smith captaincy when South Africa became no.1 test side in 2012 after defeating England by 2-0 (that year South Africa remained undefeated throughout the year in test). They have defeated England, Australia, India, Pakistan, West Indies by 3-1 and Bangladesh. Smith retired from ODI captaincy after the south Africa defeat against New Zealand in quarter final in 2011 world cup. Graeme Smith is the only player who holds the record of most catches as a non-wicket-keeper in test victories (82).