The Shyam Bhatia Annual Awards have become something of a mainstay for the UAE’s cricketing community. Hosted by the gentleman of the same name, the event has widespread appeal due to the Shyam Bhatia Cricket Museum, which has very valuable mementoes such as a bat signed by Sir Don Bradman himself.
It was in this memorable environment that former South African Captain Graeme Smith gave a speech. He drew a few laughs by saying he is so relieved not having to face Shoaib Akhtar’s bowling anymore.His presentational video showed him at the beginning of his career, having played against Australia with a broken hand. What he was trying to do was get a message across to the assembled UAE team. ‘This is a golden opportunity and do not let anything hold you back.’
He presented the UAE’s World Cup centurion Sialkat-born Shaiman Anwar with an award of appreciation, the latter saying it was an honour to receive it from a captain who had taken his team to the top of the world Test rankings.
Speaking to ARY News, Graeme Smith feels that Pakistan’s new ODI captain Azhar Ali ‘..will face many challenges and will have to take them in his stride.’
He said that his memories of visiting Pakistan are positive and more recently, he enjoyed playing against them in the UAE. With Pakistani-South African Imran Tahir in the current South African ODI squad, we asked him if Kiwi Grant Elliot’s six off Dale Steyn’s final ball in the World Cup semi-final, was altogether more painful because of the former being South African-born. He replied with a laugh, ‘I think we have become used to playing against former South Africans all over the world.’
The most heartening fact about chatting with the former captain, is the fact that he did not try to pull down current South African players. Having moved on from his playing days but still keen to promote Protea Fire, he was keen to emphasise their strengths. His last words were saved for current South African ODI captain, AB De Villers, ‘He is an amazing sportsman.’
Many fans would use the same word to describe Graeme Smith’s growth as a captain from the tender age of 22 until his retirement. ‘Amazing.’