Speaking at gala dinner at the SCG where he and former Australia captain Bill Lawry were made honourees of the Bradman Foundation in Sydney on Wednesday evening, the former Proteas skipper was forthright in his opinion after South Africa crushed the Aussies by 177 runs at the WACA earlier this week. It was the first time the Baggy Greens had lost the opening home Test of the summer since 1988, following on from the 3-0 Test whitewash in Sri Lanka and 5-0 ODI drubbing in South Africa recently.
"There is obviously a lack of confidence that has developed, maybe through these losses, and the way they collapsed and fell away in that Perth Test. To me, it showed that, maybe, there is a lack of confidence or self-belief in that set-up at the moment. It does show me that there is something that's not right there," Smith said.
The 35-year-old, who led the Proteas to two successive Test series victories here in 2008 and 2012, believed the rotational policy utilised by the Australian selectors that saw leading pacemen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood rested for the South African trip may be contributing towards the decline of the national team’s culture.
"I was quite surprised at some of the selections that came to South Africa in the one-day series, and that hurt them badly. They lost 5-0," Smith said. “For me, [the Australian team] was obviously built on the skill factor, but it was always built on a hardness, a really strong respect and culture for that Australian environment. I wonder whether it's this whole rotation policy, whether some of that has been lost: that culture, that respect within the environment has been lost with so many different players coming through the system."
Smith also questioned the role of Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland in the current malaise, especially after CA recently agreed to play an away Test in India only 16 hours after the home summer concludes with a T20 International against Sri Lanka.
"I was surprised at this method of James Sutherland looking to play a Test and T20 at the same time. It's very un-Australian for me," Smith said. "Playing for Australia was something that was always preached to be how proud people were. It just seems like that is in turmoil a little bit at the moment."
Smith was also strong in his views about the differences in Faf du Plessis’s leadership of the Proteas at the moment in comparison to Australia’s under-fire leader Steve Smith. Monday’s humbling loss at the WACA was the first time that Australia have lost four consecutive Tests include a home match since Allan Border’s side of 1984.
"Faf has developed hugely of late, he has grown into the role. There was a real void in South African cricket in terms of leadership over the last period. The intellectual capacity around the team in terms of coaching and the selection - they had a three-captain type system and he has stepped in through injuries from AB, and Hash stepping aside, and he has slowly gained the respect and grown himself," Smith said.
"Tactically, he outdid Steve Smith on the weekend, the players respect him, he seems to get the best out of them and there is almost a bit of leadership traction and strength developing again in the South African team, which was lacking through the three-captaincy system and the coaching set-up, and he is slowly bringing that back together."
Independent MediaThe Proteas’ most successful Test captain Graeme Smith believes Australia are in “turmoil” and that “something is not right” in the game Down Under.
Original source: Graeme Smith: Aussies are in turmoil