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Rumours were doing the rounds as early as September about Surrey signing South African captain Graeme Smith and the club have now confirmed the left-hander as their new captain for the 2013 season as well as for the following two years.
It will be the 31 year-old’s second spell in county cricket, after leading Somerset in 2005, a season in which they lifted the Twenty20 Cup for the first - and to date - only time.
"I am excited to be joining such a professional and talented team, during what will hopefully prove to be a rewarding and successful period for Surrey CCC," Smith, who will link up with his new club following South Africa’s home series against Pakistan in March, told Surrey's website.
"When you consider the ambition shown it was an easy decision for myself and my family and I would like to thank Surrey County Cricket Club and Cricket South Africa for giving me the opportunity to lead the side and make it possible.
"I am excited about what we can achieve at Surrey going forward and would like to state very clearly that I will balance my new role alongside my continuing commitments to the Proteas and I look forward to continuing to represent my country for many years to come."
Originally it was thought that Surrey were keen for Smith to retire from international cricket altogether, but that suggestion was scotched by the South African Test captain on Twitter shortly after surfacing. It appears that South Africa’s relatively light international workload over the coming three English summers has rendered that possibility largely irrelevant in any case.
They will tour Sri Lanka for a limited-overs series in 2013, and play two Tests, three One-Day Internationals and a T20 International in each of the following summers against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. To lessen Smith’s potential workload even further, he is unlikely to feature for South Africa again in T20 cricket.
Smith’s signing comes after a tumultuous 2012 season for Surrey, which saw the death of talented batsman Tom Maynard in tragic circumstances and the resulting departure of his close friend, flat-mate and club captain Rory Hamilton-Brown, first on compassionate leave and then to Sussex.
Gareth Batty took over the captaincy reins from Hamilton-Brown during his long absences and he is likely to stand in for Smith when he is away playing for his country next season.
Surrey have already made several changes to their 2012 playing staff. These include signing the experienced pair of Gary Keedy from Lancashire and Vikram Solanki from Worcestershire and seeing all-rounder Matthew Spriegel sign for Northamptonshire.
The large amount of player movement, coupled with the emotional turmoil following the death of Maynard, hints at a troubled club - a view that is certainly given ammunition by comments on Twitter recently from several former players, as well as an article in last week’s Sunday Times in which Chris Adams spoke of additional reasons - other than simply a desire for a change of scene - for Hamilton-Brown’s departure.
All of this means that Smith will need all of his experience and leadership nous to heal what appears a troubled dressing room.
© Cricket World 2012
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