Smith rules out return to top-flight cricket

Graeme Smith has admitted to keeping his eye on T20 leagues as a way in before considering his next move © Gallo Images

Graeme Smith, the former South Africa captain, has ruled out a comeback to international cricket, but admitted an interest in coaching following his return from the Masters Champions League.

Last December, Smith said he was “at the cusp” of deciding whether to give top-level cricket another go after what seemed a premature retirement at the age of 33 in March 2014.

“It’s not something that I really considered,” Smith told at a sponsor function. “It’s been largely driven from a media perspective. I think just being at the age that I retired, everyone expects that I could do it; I know I could, but I don’t think playing for South Africa is something that’s on the table.”

After his retirement from international cricket, Smith signed a three-year deal with Surrey, but could not even complete the first of those years because of a serious knee injury. His only other active participation before the MCL was a charity game at the Oval last September.

When talk of his comeback was first mooted, South Africa’s convener of selectors Linda Zondi made it clear that Smith would have to play in the domestic set-up if he wanted to be considered for the national side.

There were suggestions that Smith would sign up with the Titans franchise for their T20 competition, but he took on other roles in cricket including that of tournament director for the Ram Sam T20, South Africa’s flagship T20 competition, and as an employee for financial services company Momentum, who sponsor one-day cricket in South Africa. He also commentated, most notably for Test Match Special during the recently completed Test series between South Africa and England.

During that series, Smith was swayed into coaching as well. After he criticised South Africa’s batsmen following the Boxing Day defeat, he was roped in as a batting consultant ahead of the New Year’s Test. Although Hashim Amla, who was at the time still captain of the Test side, said Smith would be with the team for the whole series, Smith’s media commitments meant he only spent a net session with them.

By the end of the series Russell Domingo, South Africa’s coach, confirmed he was looking for a batting consultant to add to his support staff and that he had approached several candidates. Neither Domingo nor Smith mentioned whether Smith was one of those but even if he was, a consultancy role is not something Smith is considering at the moment.

“I obviously have challenges on the personal front. I’ve got two young kids and for me it’s two-fold. Firstly, time away from home. At the moment, a batting consultant is something that I can’t really commit to,” Smith said. “If I’m going to coach then I’m really going to commit fully and try and go for something more substantial, maybe a head coach role.”

When and where Smith will start that quest in uncertain, but he has admitted to keeping his eye on T20 leagues as a way in before considering his next move. “It’s something that I’m certainly starting to consider more. I had a good two years away from the game and the pressure of captaining South Africa for 11 years. I needed that break,” he said. “Leadership and running an environment and being at the forefront of decision making is something that has been an integral part of my career, you know.

“So it’s certainly something that I will look at doing, whether it starts at the IPL or starts in a T20 league and builds into something else; we’ll just have to see what happens.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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