You wouldn’t think that last week’s
decision by Sri Lankan skipper Marvin Atapattu to bat second on the basis that
his debutant super-sub can’t bowl would be eclipsed so soon, but the
increasingly erratic Graeme Smith has topped it.

Yesterday a bewildered Smith won the toss
and ordered his men into the field on a hot Brisbane day, handing the advantage
of the conditions to Atapattu, because, and I’m paraphrasing here, “it seemed
to go pretty well last time.”

Forget the on-field competition – the two
visiting captains have declared a brain explosion competition, and the stakes
are high. Atapattu, whose team neatly cleaned up the South Africans by 94 runs last night,
had only led his team to victory twice in the previous 13 matches. His squad is
talented but low on experience and confidence, especially coming out of an
under-performed tour of New
Zealand into a series
featuring the first and second ranked one-day sides. Marvin is a man with
nothing to lose.

Graeme Smith has something to lose, and
it’s not just a game against Sri Lanka.
South Africa’s youngest captain, Smith was appointed to lead the Proteas out of
the corruption-tainted Cronje era, and although opinion in the cricket world is
divided as to his credentials, he has certainly returned professional respect,
if not regular success, to his national side. Chosen as the ICC World XI
captain last year, Smith did his best trying to pull together an unmotivated
clutch of superstars, although he failed himself to score runs.

And that, unfortunately, has been the
Graeme Smith story this summer: innovative captaincy backed by no scores of
substance. He averaged 25 in the recent Tests and has so far contributed 12 and
3 in the short game. His media mind games are looking more and more ridiculous
in the face of his erratic behaviour as captain.

So the gloves are now off, and the
strangest captaincy will be required to win the 2005/6 Brain Explosion Cup.

Peter Fray

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