Smith felt 'incredibly emotional' after Cup

More than two months after South Africa was knocked out of the 2011 Cricket World Cup, Proteas captain Graeme Smith apologised on Sunday in Sandton, Johannesburg, for not explaining to fans earlier his failure to return home with the team after their early exit from the tournament.

“With the benefit of hindsight, my decision to not return home directly after the World Cup should have been explained sooner,” said Smith, reading from a prepared statement.

This was his first public appearance since the Proteas were skittled out of the World Cup by underdogs New Zealand who recorded a 49 run victory in the quarterfinals in Dhaka on March 25.

The team arrived home shortly after their shock defeat, minus their captain, as Smith chose instead to go to Ireland to spend time with his pop-singer girlfriend, now fiancée, Morgan Deane.

While Cricket South Africa went to great lengths to say Smith had cleared the decision with them before the start of the tournament, it seemed an odd arrangement as the team were expected to reach the semifinal stage, if not the final of the competition in what many people thought was South Africa’s best chance of bringing home the trophy.

Apart from the home advantage that India and Sri Lanka enjoyed, no team in particular stood out as favourites—unlike in the previous three tournaments that were dominated by Australia.

“I know that my extended absence from South Africa has been the subject of much comment,” said Smith.

“I apologise and make no excuses for it but I ask the South African fans to understand that I was feeling incredibly emotional at the time.

“What I did not take into account was the public’s reaction to this decision.”

Smith returned to India after his sojourn in Ireland for the Indian Premier League but sustained a knee injury in the second match of the tournament and was unable to work through it.

“Time is on my side to get fully fit,” he said as the Proteas’ next assignment is only in October against Australia, at home.

“Once the new coach is appointed, I will work to get back to my best physically, mentally and technically.”

“I know the South African fans demand a lot from us and, as captain, I am held responsible. My captaincy means nothing unless I can back it up with my performance.

“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved as a player in the past and want to get back to that and I want to enjoy my cricket again.”

Smith reiterated that he made what he considered the correct decision at the time when taking into account the disappointment and emotions he felt.

“I made the best decision at the time for where I was emotionally and in my personal life, but it’s definitely understandable that the fans were disappointed.”

Smith said there were exciting times ahead with a new coach being officially appointed on Monday, although the cat is already out of the bag in what is being termed “the worst kept secret in cricket”.

It is expected that Gary Kirsten will be appointed head coach assisted by Allan Donald and Russell Domingo.

While it had been earlier reported that Donald had accepted the position of bowling coach with New Zealand Cricket, they issued a statement on Sunday saying Donald had subsequently rejected their offer. - Sapa

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