Graeme Smith became the youngest South African Test captain at just 22, when he replaced the popular Shaun Pollock after their disappointing 2003 World Cup campaign.
The hulking left-handed opener quickly asserted himself as a danger man in the top order, with back to back double centuries in England. Scores of 259 and 277 justified his selection as national captain.
Under his leadership, South African cricket has transformed from perennial under achievers, to now sit atop the ICC Test rankings. While they still haven’t won any trophies in the shorter formats of the game, South Africa remains one of the most consistent sides in world cricket.
The highlight of his career has to be the drought-breaking series win in Australia, when his side knocked off the hosts 2-1 in a truly memorable Summer of cricket. His tag as one of the toughest men in cricket was enhanced when he returned to bat at the SCG, despite having his hand broken in the match. Although he would eventually fall 10 balls short of saving the match, everyone at the ground acknowledged the heroics of the South African captain.
Smith put the icing on a successful career when he led his side to a series win in England; securing the number one Test ranking along the way. He also reached a personal milestone during the series, when he played in his 100th Test for SA.
He holds a number of records in South African and world cricket, including the highest opening partnership of all time. His stand of 415 with fellow opener Neil McKenzie was the fourth time he had shared in an opening stand of over 300 (a world record in its own right).
Dubbed “the Bully” by his peers, Smith has maintained excellent statistics throughout his career, and enters the home series with a formidable average of 49.56.
Smith has also played 197 ODI matches for South Africa, blasting nine centuries along the way. Similar to his predecessor, he was forced to retire from the role of captain when South Africa was bundled out by New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup.