Graeme Smith - a terrific player, magnificent captain and great ambassador
'South African skipper bows out as one of the greats of Test cricket...'
Last Updated: 04/03/14 11:39am
The South African skipper announced he will retire from international cricket at the end of the third Test against Australia at Newlands - and will bow out of Test cricket with his team at the top of the rankings, regardless of the result.
With over 9,200 Test runs to his name, only the recently-retired Jacques Kallis has scored more runs for South Africa than Smith, who scored a century in his 100th Test against England at the Oval in 2012.
Botham told Sky Sports News that the left-handed opener, who has led his country in 109 of his 117 Tests, deserves every plaudit that comes his way.
"He's had a magnificent career," said Botham. "He's captained the side for a very long time and it takes its toll. So maybe it's a case of 'I've had enough, I've got other things to do'.
"Perhaps with his close friend Jacques Kallis retiring recently he feels that at the age of 33 it's time to step aside and let the younger boys have a go.
"But he will be remembered as a terrific captain and a terrific player. He had one golden patch in the middle of his career where he hit double-hundreds and big hundreds, particularly against England.
"At the end of the day Graeme Smith has been magnificent - he's been a great ambassador for South Africa, a terrific captain and someone who is well-respected around the world.
"If you can leave the game with that sort of respect and those great memories, then you've done well. I think he's done very well. He's right up there with the greats of the game."
Smith became South Africa's youngest Test captain when he succeeded Shaun Pollock as skipper at the age of 22, despite only having eight caps to his name.
He led by example on the 2003 tour of England, following up his 277 in the first Test at Edgbaston with 259 in the following Test at Lord's.
Former England paceman Bob Willis said the manner in which Smith settled into the captaincy proved that he was a perfect fit.
"He has been the perfect role-model for South African cricket," said Willis. "You've got to remember that he's always dribbling a political football in the new South Africa but he's been an inspiration to his side over many years.
"We talk about youngsters coming into the England side at the age of 24 or 25. This guy was made captain when he was 22 and he's got an unblemished record.
"It's no exaggeration to say that he's one of the best opening batsmen that there has ever been in the game."
Fellow Sky Sports commentator David Lloyd echoed those views, saying: "I think he's been such an impressive leader.
"He came in when he was very young and he was so enthusiastic. He's been a fantastic player. To think that he's been at the top of the order for all that time and scored over 9,200 Test match runs, with 27 centuries.
"I think Smith has been a real ambassador for South Africa. He's conducted himself really well. He's immensely proud. The other thing that I find very important is that he's a really nice fella, too."
Watch the end of Graeme Smith's Test career as the third Test between South Africa and Australia continues on Sky Sports 2.