Graeme Smith in running for CSA's director of cricket

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis talks with ex captain Graeme Smith ahead of their opening ICC CRricket World Cup match against England at The Oval on May 29, 2019 in London, England.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis talks with ex captain Graeme Smith ahead of their opening ICC CRricket World Cup match against England at The Oval on May 29, 2019 in London, England.
Image: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Graeme Smith is in the running to become Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) first permanently appointed director of cricket.

The appointment of the former South Africa men’s captain would help quell doubts about the quality of administrative leadership in a turbulent time for the game in South Africa.

Smith confirmed on Saturday that he was interviewed for the position on Friday.

TMG Digital has learnt that Corrie van Zyl, CSA’s interim director of cricket when he was suspended last month, and Hussein Manack, a national selector until the panel was dissolved in terms of the restructure prompted by the disappointing men’s World Cup campaign in July, were also interviewed.

Smith played 345 games for South Africa across all formats, and captained them 284 times.

He presided over 163 wins, 89 losses, 27 draws and a tie.

Smith’s 109 Tests as captain, one at the helm of an ICC XI, is a world record.

He was appointed at 22 in the aftermath of the 2003 World Cup, when South Africa crashed out in the first round at home.

Smith relinquished the one-day reins after the 2011 World Cup, by which time he was no longer the T20 skipper.

But he continued to lead South Africa’s Test team until March 2014 — when he announced his retirement during the third and last match of a series against Australia, a month after his 33rd birthday.

Many felt he called it quits too soon, and he has subsequently stayed in the game as a commentator.

In August 2014 he was named tournament director for CSA’s T20 competition, followed a month later by an appointment to a corporate social responsibility position by financial services company Momentum, a CSA sponsor.

Both Van Zyl and Manack likely had their playing careers stunted by apartheid.

Most of Van Zyl’s career coincided with South Africa’s isolation, and his international experience was limited to two ODIs on the tour to West Indies in April 1992.

A fast bowling allrounder, Van Zyl took 349 wickets at 23.38 and scored a century and 10 half-centuries in his 104 first-class matches.

He coached South Africa from January 2010 to March 2011 and was appointed CSA’s general manager in May 2009.

Manack, who is of Indian heritage, was prohibited from playing for South Africa by apartheid, but was listed as a non-playing “development” member of the squad that went to India in November 1991 to play three ODIs — the national team’s first engagement after 22 years of isolation. Manack, a highly regarded wicketkeeper-batter in the non-racial structures, was given no other opportunities to play at the highest level.

He played 52 first-class matches, scoring three centuries and 11 half-centuries and averaging 27.79.

A commentator of 16 years standing, he became a national selector in 2012.

Van Zyl and Manack have solid credentials for the position, but Smith is the obvious frontrunner, not least because he is the standard bearer for a more successful era.

South Africa established a brand of tough, competitive cricket under his leadership that saw them rise to the No. 1 Test ranking in July 2012 — where they stayed for the rest of his career.

Having suffered their worst Test series defeat in 83 years in India last month, which came in the wake of their worst performance at a World Cup, and all that in the shadow of multiple challenges on the administrative front — not least court battles with the players and a provincial affiliate — South Africa are in dire need of the good news that is Smith’s interest in the position.

TMG Digital has learnt that the panel that interviewed the three candidates comprised CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe and board members Jack Madiseng, Tebogo Siko, Dawn Makhobo and Shirley Zinn.

None of them played first-class cricket, some through no fault of their own.

It is understood they will make a decision in the next two weeks.