Just as the England football team World Cup heroes of 1966 sometimes reunite to reminisce about their triumph, surely one day the Rajasthan Royals team of 2008 will come together to celebrate and reflect on their glorious campaign in the inaugural IPL. When that moment comes, one of the guests of honour will no doubt be opening batsman Graeme Smith, the so called ‘Springbok Rock At The Top’.
Thrust into international captaincy at an early age, Smith earned a reputation as a no nonsense cricketer who didn’t mince his words on the cricket field, and in his early days he and Shane Warne regularly engaged in verbal combat in the Test Match arena. There were concerns they wouldn’t get on in the same team, which would have been a serious problem bearing in mind Graeme had cost $475,000 in the IPL players’ auction. However, any worries were rapidly dispelled in the first Rajasthan Royals training session. Warney shouted across to his new team mate “Smithy, we haven’t got a problem have we?” The South African replied “Of course not mate!” and that was that. Skipper Warne was rewarded with a series of fine innings from the South African at the top of the order, including a Man of the Match knock of 75 not out against the Deccan Chargers. His runs helped to propel the Royals into the play offs. In the semi final against Delhi, ‘Smithy’ played through injury to ensure his team reached the final – true grit from the Springbok.
“You can know an opponent as a cricketer,” Warney said “but you only start to know him as a bloke when you play in the same side. As it turned out, the Graeme Smith I played alongside for the Rajasthan Royals in 2008 was different to the Graeme Smith I faced in the Test arena. That was the great thing about the Indian Premier League. It brought together players from all countries to share ideas, swap experiences and take the game forward worldwide. We had a laugh and a joke about the things we had said in the past. They sounded quite funny looking back. I know he has a few regrets, but, all credit to him, he sees the funny side!”