Smith sounds a 50 over warning
A month of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket has made one thing clear to South Africa's captain Graeme Smith - 50-overs, or one-day cricket, is in very big trouble.
Smith has been one of the star performers for the Rajasthan Royals side that sits atop the IPL log and became the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the competition. He feels the 20-over format will take the game to new levels and possibly new countries.
"Fifty-over cricket is in real danger," he said from India on Friday. "The 50-over game is going to have to liven up. They're already talking about changing the power plays to allow the batting team to choose when they want to use them.
"This (20-over) format is very strong, there is a lot of enthusiasm for it, you can take it everywhere around the world to allow people to get to know about the game," Smith said.
The South African captain's views on the IPL are overwhelmingly positive - some cynics may point out that they could only be, given the success of his team. However, Smith said the competition has been extremely well-received by India and the hype has been extraordinary. "The IPL is massive," he gushed. "You can't turn on a TV or open a newspaper without seeing something about it. The hype is on a different level and the marketing is like nothing you've seen with international cricket."
Smith's Rajasthan Royals were not expected to be among the favourites prior to the competition. In fact, at $67-million, the franchise was the cheapest of the eight franchises and their $3,6-million salary bill is the lowest. However, after Saturday's match against the Chennai Super Kings, they sit atop the IPL log, having won 10 of their 12 matches.
"Before we got here, the owners told us we had some good young Indian players, though not household names," said Smith. "It's been a learning curve for everyone - there are lots of young Indian guys, so from that perspective it has been quite a challenge."
Of all the South Africans playing in the competition, Smith, together with Shaun Pollock, has been the best and most consistent performer. After Saturday's match, he was among the top 10 leading run- scorers, with an aggregate of 416 runs and a healthy strike-rate of 121.99. "I've adopted a more conservative approach. Guys like Swapnil Asnodkar and Yusuf Pathan have performed very well and are really aggressive players, so I've tried to control the innings more.
"The younger guys have been keen to learn and one of the things that has helped us is that we are not carrying as much baggage as some of the other teams," he added.
Another key to the Royals' success has been the captaincy of Shane Warne, someone Smith had not always seen eye to eye with. The two famously didn't have too many good things to say about each other when Australia last played South Africa in 2005/06.
"We were very competitive when we faced each other, and it was important that when we met up now, we sat down to see where we were coming from. We knew that in order for our team to be successful we needed to work together.
"He's an interesting guy. I've always known he's got a great cricketing brain - you could feel that when he bowled at you. It's nice being in the same side - it's been very beneficial to stand at first slip and see how he works.
"It's been a great experience... and I think we've gelled well together and I have definitely enjoyed watching him do things."