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Proteas ready to challenge India for No1 Test spot

Last updated on: June 6, 2011 18:57 IST

Proteas seek to dethrone India: Smith

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Upstaging India from the top of Test rankings would be South Africa's top priority this season, captain Graeme Smith said on Sunday.

India are the world's top-ranked Test side with 128 points, followed by South Africa (117) and England (115).

Smith spoke to media for the first time after South Africa's failed World Cup campaign, which ended with a quarter-final defeat against New Zealand in March.

South Africa are scheduled to play a two-Test series against Australia in November and a three-Test series against Sri Lanka in December-January at home.

"I remain extremely positive about the Proteas as we set about challenging India for their number one Test ranking," Smith said in Johannesburg.


Image: Graeme Smith

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'Our top order needs to work on their batting'

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For that to happen, Smith said his side's top order need to sort out batting problems, which was a major factor in their unsuccessful World Cup campaign.

"Our top order did not bat as well as expected (at the World Cup) and it is something -- myself included -- that we need to work hard to address as we prepare for tough series against Australia and Sri Lanka.

"As soon as the new national coach is named I will work out a programme with him to get my game back to the level I expect of myself. The commitment and pride I feel for representing South Africa is still very close to my heart," he said.


Image: Graeme Smith

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'I will work hard to attain the standards I expect of myself'

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Smith's first public appearance after the World Cup also set at rest the speculation that he might step down from Test captaincy after having relinquished the top job in ODIs and Twenty20 earlier.

Smith said injury and poor form plagued his batting in the World Cup and the IPL and that he would prepare hard for the tough assignments ahead.

"I will work hard over the next few months to once more attain the high standards I expect of myself. A knee injury that was more serious than originally anticipated cut short my IPL season.

"But time is on my side to get fully fit for the new season and to do what I like doing -- giving my best for my country," he said.


Image: Graeme Smith

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Smith apologises to SA fans

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Smith apologised to home fans for not returning home from India with the team after the World Cup exit.

"I apologise and make no excuses, but ask South African fans to understand that I was feeling incredibly emotional prior to the World Cup... had asked permission to attend a personal matter in Ireland.

"At the time I faced a full media schedule and felt that signalled the end to the campaign. What I did not take into account was the reaction of the public to this decision," he said.

After South Africa's World Cup exit, Smith controversially chose to go to Ireland to spend time with his pop singer girlfriend Morgan Deane. He 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.

Meanwhile, Cricket South Africa is expected to confirm the appointments of Gary Kirsten as national coach, and former Proteas fast bowler Allan Donald and Eastern Cape Warriors

coach Russell Domingo as his assistants, by Monday.


Image: Graeme Smith

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