Sydney: Graeme Smith became the South Africa"s skipper at the age of 22, fulfilling his dream that he saw since he was 12.
Smith was never the studious except when it came to one task. At the start of each year, he would lock himself away for a few hours, put pen to paper and devise a list of objectives that would be pinned to his bedroom wall.
“From the age of 12, cricket was going to be his life," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted his father Graham, as sayig.
“His goals were very important to him, and it showed to us just how determined he was. They changed from time to time, but one thing that was always there was that he wanted to captain the South African cricket team," he said.
By then, Graham Smith knew full well that his son"s ambition would lead him away from the family"s engineering business.
“It was a nightmare. You could never get him out. We used to have garden matches with all our friends around, but Graeme would just bat all day. I think even at that age he was thriving on all of our frustration," Graham said.
Tales of Smith"s resolve are the stuff of legend in his native Johannesburg. In his early teens, Smith once attended a provincial spin academy and asked the coach whether he could oppose the bowlers in the nets.
“He was in those nets for two whole days. He could have gone forever," a frioend recalled.
Jimmy Cook, a former Test batsman who would become Smith"s coach and mentor at the King Edward VII School in Johannesburg, recalled his first meeting with the man who would go on to captain his nation.
“He was bowling in the nets when another boy came up to him to chat. Graeme looked at him and said quite sternly, 'Leave me alone, I"m bowling". He was that focused that he would not let anything distract him," Cook said.
“He tore strips off the team at his first training camp as captain in Pretoria because some of the bowlers went off for a drink while the batsmen were doing shuttles," Cook said.
“He made it known to them that they would do everything as a team from here on in … He came across as arrogant … [but] I think that he never would have survived in that team as a 22-year-old captain without putting his foot down," Cook added.