Proteas captain Graeme Smith on Friday paid tribute to the hard work his Standard Bank ODI squad members have put in over the past two years in wresting the No 1 world one-day ranking away from world champions Australia.
He also said that it was a fine achievement that a young country like South Africa could achieve such status in the comparatively brief time cricket has been unified under a democratic government in this country.
“Outside of winning World Cups, this is the next most important thing,” commented Smith. “You have to be consistent to be ranked No 1 and I think we have reached that level of consistency over a period of time. We have performed very well and I am very proud of what the guys have achieved over the last two years. Hopefully this is the beginning for us. I have worked very hard on not focusing too much on the end results but rather on performing better as a team and as individuals. Being No 1 is a reward for all of us but hopefully it is just the beginning of what is a very tough year – away series against India, England and Australia. Those are challenges by themselves. I am very proud of this achievement even though there is a bigger picture for all of us. Being No 1 in the world brings with it a certain respect for the game itself and for the way in which we play the game and conduct ourselves on the field. I feel that is very important in making cricket a better game.”
Smith also paid tribute to Australia for the standard they have set over the past few years. “I have a huge respect for Australia for what they have achieved over the last many years. They have deserved the No 1 ranking they have held for a long period of time with the players they have had and the performances they have put in around the world. They have been awesome at times and hopefully this will be the start of a period when South Africa will be right up there. We have the talent and if we can control the small things – get better as people, get better as players – those things will go a long way to proving that.”
Smith admitted that the rankings were a motivating factor for his team although not an over-riding one: “It is more of an end goal for us. Having it now is a huge achievement. We are a fairly young country in terms of our international careers since the end of apartheid and to have the No 1 ranking and to have players who hold world records and other landmarks is something special for the country. We have to be prouder of what we have achieved as a country and celebrate it as we saw with Polly (Shaun Pollock) when he came to the end of his career. Everybody came out and celebrated what he had achieved and it was a truly wonderful moment. We need more of that. It is up to the players and the media to get the public into the game and give the game the respect it deserves and then the players will get the accolades that they deserve.”
Smith finished the 3-0 series win over Bangladesh that took the Proteas ahead of Australia in a blaze of glory. He won his second man of the match of the series and was an obvious choice as man of the series. He also won a special award as the leading runs scorer in the series.”
Cricket South Africa CEO Gerald Majola was also fulsome in his praise of Smith in particular and the team in general.
“The Proteas achievement in winning the Bangladesh ODI and Test series on top of doing the same against Pakistan recently is one of the best achievements by a non sub-continent team,” he commented.
“The individual highlights have been numerous, but standing above them all has been the performance of Graeme Smith, both as a captain and as a batsman.
“Graeme has led from the front the start and the team followed him all the way. CSA has confidence that this outfit will continue on its winning ways and win the sub-continent treble by beating India later this month.
“As things stand now, Graeme and his team are the best ODI side in the world and are looking to clinch their spot as the second best Test squad. This is a remarkable achievement, considering that the team has been on the sub-continent for an extended period, and it shows that South African cricket now has both fortitude and variety.
“We must also say a big thank you to Standard Bank for making this possible by supporting both the national ODI team and the High Performance Centre where they prepare to meet the challenges of the opposition.”
Cricket South Africa president Norman Arendse extended his warmest congratulations “to the captain, coach, management team and every player to have represented the country over the last few years”.
“Claiming this fantastic milestone in the context of South Africa where we have had to grapple with transformation and have only been back in international cricket for 16 odd years is nothing short of miraculous.
“The challenge now is to maintain the standard we have set for ourselves and we, as the administrators of Cricket South Africa, will do everything in our power to keep us at the top and consolidate our position.”
© Cricket South Africa
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