Graeme Smith has retired. He was such a unique player, are there any lessons we can possibly take from the South African?
It would be foolish to simply try and copy him in technique or character. He was a bristling personality, often favouring the task over man management. He looked like he was about to get out LBW all the time. You can't copy that unless you are of similar temperament, judgement and body type to Smith.
Yet we can't deny it worked for him. Even under huge pressures he piled on the runs; over 16,000 in international cricket at well over forties. That's a lot of flicks to leg. It also means it's not down to luck, or natural talent. Something else is going on there.
So, lets unpick the skills that you can transfer to your game without having to have a barrel chest, an aggressive leadership style and a lantern jaw.
Write your own textbook
Smith proved that you don't need a textbook method to score runs. He was technically ugly, but ugly runs are still runs. He's a one man example that you can write your own textbook.
This is because technique is only one part of the batting puzzle. Shot selection and decision making are also crucial elements. If you are strong in those parts while being weaker in textbook technical methods you can "get away with it".
Of course, you still have to work with your body to get a technique that works for you. That will take some experimenting. For example, when driving, some players lead with the head, others lead with the foot. Do you know what comes more naturally to you?
If not, it's time to do some experiments. It's time to make your own textbook based on your body, not everybody.
One more is never enough
Of course, experimenting a lot also means practising a lot. Much of your practice will appear to be wasted while you try things that don't work for you. But that is short-sighted because every time you learn something that doesn't work, you are one step closer to what does work.
Smith was a shining example. According to his first coach he practised after school for hours and always begged for one more bat when it was time to leave. His passion drove him to work harder than anyone else, and his focus drove him to work smarter; seeking advice, thinking about his game but never over-thinking.
Every ball he faced had meaning. Every session was reviewed, and put aside so he could focus on the next one. It's this relentless virtuous cycle that you can emulate.
If you have the passion and drive.
Ignore rejection: Know they are wrong
Speaking of drive, Smith also has to use it to overcome rejection. This was because of the problem of being an ugly batsman (he didn't even have a cover drive as a teenager).
He was turned down often because he didn't look great in trials. Lesser men might have given up and agreed with the coaches letters saying "thanks but no thanks". He just went away and scored so many runs he couldn't be ignored. You might call it grit, or character. He knew he was going to prove them all wrong.
And all those runs later, he proved he was right.
It's up to you to prove the same to the nay-sayers in your life too. And by following the example of Graeme Smith, there is every chance you can have a glittering career, even if you have no cover drive and a preference for whipping straight ones through the leg side.