Graham Ford: Graeme Smith 'ideal' man for South Africa role
Graeme Smith can have a huge impact on South African cricket, according to Graham Ford, the coach when he made his Test debut.
Graham Ford feels Graeme Smith's leadership qualities and intelligence make him the "ideal" man to bring success to South Africa.
Former captain Smith, 39, was appointed Cricket South Africa's (CSA) director of cricket on a permanent basis last month having initially filled the role on an interim basis.
He has already brought some familiar faces on board, with former international colleague Mark Boucher named head coach ahead of the home Test series against England and Jacques Kallis, another South Africa great, joining as a batting consultant.
Last November Smith actually withdrew from consideration for the role he later took due to a lack of "confidence" in the CSA hierarchy, though a restructuring changed his feelings, and ex-Proteas head coach Ford believes he will be a success, provided there is no meddling at boardroom level.
"I think that what he's shown as a player and leader over the years shows he's ideal for this job," Ford, now head coach of Ireland, told Stats Perform.
"He's incredibly driven, he wants to achieve, he's proud. He's been criticised maybe a little bit about some of the appointments he's made. But, from what I know of him, he's only making those appointments because he knows those are the guys that will get it done. It's his reputation at stake at the end of the day.
"You've got a high-quality guy, he knows cricket, he's got an amazing presence about him. Wherever he wants to impact on South Africa cricket, whether it be the women's game, the men's game, dressing rooms or whatever, he will be able to have an impact.
"The bloke is a hell of a cricket thinker as well. I've got no doubt they've got the right chap.
"As long as the rest of the support around him ? the upward management ? give him the freedom to make decisions, they're in a good space."
Ford was in charge of South Africa when Smith made his debut in 2001 as a 21-year-old against Australia, making 68 in his second innings against a vaunted bowling attack that featured Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Brett Lee.
The batsman went on to captain South Africa in 109 Tests, which remains an international cricket record.
"If I think back to his debut, [he was] a very young lad, 21 years of age, and he wasn't actually going to play and then Daryll Cullinan pulled out and Graeme sought as much information from the senior players and players around him as possible," Ford recalled.
"We were playing Australia, the mean machine at the time, and he made 60-odd. He took a lot of abuse and for a young lad like that to handle that situation was absolutely amazing.
"He went from strength to strength, he just got better after that. He showed great qualities early on."