GRAEME Smith’s triple celebration at the Wanderers on Friday is in no danger of being overshadowed by the start of the Test series between South Africa and Pakistan.
Days don’t get bigger than this for anyone, even a Proteas captain. Smith turns 32 and he announced this week that his wife, Morgan Deane, is expecting their second child. He will also become the first player in history to lead a team in a Test for the 100th time.
A slew of marketing madness — from birthday cakes to mass crowd sing-songs to electronic adulation on the scoreboard to bespoke social media hashtags — has been created to mark a moment that was deemed important enough for Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula’s presence at Smith’s regular captain’s press conference on Thursday.
"He has displayed the spirit of no surrender," Mbalula said. "If at every moment when people shouted him down he gave up, there would be no Graeme Smith today.
"But because he understood that courage comes with the challenges and criticism of a sportsman, that out of every challenge you come out victorious, today there is a person we are celebrating.
"Graeme Smith represents what I call a paragon of human perfection," Mbalula said.
Who could blame Smith if the challenge of keeping his mind on the game starting on Friday loomed larger than ever before?
"It’s not going to be easy," Smith admitted. "I had a little taste of it with my 100th Test at the Oval in England and I was able to be successful there (scoring 131).
"But the advantage was that I was in a foreign country and I was able to create a little bit of space. Being in South Africa, the outpouring of emotion and love wherever I’ve gone has been incredible. I’ve been walking around in a constant buzz."
Would the fuss distract his team from their task of taking on opponents strong and skilled in all departments?
"There’s a good maturity in the group now," Smith said. "The team have had a lot of success of late, and the guys want to make this a successful five days. You can feel that energy off the players."
Smith said he would be surprised if the Proteas opted to take the fight to the visiting Pakistanis by picking an all-pace attack.
"The ball does tend to swing more on the highveld, and the public like to see the ball flying past people’s ears. But it’s about being clinical and understanding what we need to do," Smith said.