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Smith's men better than Cronje's brigade

December 31, 2008 16:49 IST

Former South African greats shied away from comparing Graeme Smith's men to the 1969-70 all-star squad but had no hesitation in acknowledging that the current side is better than the 1990s batch led by Hansie Cronje.

SA crush Australia in Melbourne

Ali Bacher, who inherited arguably the best ever South Africa side in 1969-70, said the present side under Smith has made history by winning their first series Down Under.

"This is history in the making," said Bacher, who led a star-studded team including the likes of Barry Richards, Mike Procter, Eddie Barlow and the Pollock brothers -- Peter and Graeme.

"How good is the South African team? Certainly after our return to international cricket, the two best teams we had in Test cricket was the one led by the late Hansie Cronje in the late 1990s and this current one. But the records will show this team is better," said the former player, who subsequently went on to head the South African cricket board. 

Lavishing praise on Smith's team, he said, "They started by beating Pakistan in Pakistan, beat England in England, drew with India in India and now Australia in Australia - there can be no question they are the No. 1 in world cricket today." 

Procter too had no doubt that this was a watershed moment in the history of the game in South Africa but refused to compare the side with the one he was part of. 

"This victory will rank as one of the greatest sporting moments in South African history. The two Test matches South Africa won have been incredible. It just showed the tremendous character of the team because in both the Tests there was no way they could win the game and they ended up winning both matches very comfortably," Procter told  Cricinfo.

"I know this team will be measured against the 1970s' side. Back then, we won every game pretty comfortably and there were no major problems. In these two Tests South Africa were almost staring at defeat on the second or third day and they turned that around and won convincingly," he said. 

Barry Richards is proud of Smith's success in Australia but he too is not game for a comparative study between the teams from different era. 

"Obviously I'm very proud of the victory. It is a great thing to do it in Australia. Our side was scheduled to tour Australia in 1971 and we would have defeated them easily but it is great that Graeme Smith has done it. 

"Comparing the side I played and the present South African one is like comparing Ben Hogan to Tiger Woods. You just can't do that. They are so far apart: the bats are different, the size of the fields were bigger in the old days and the wickets were little bit friendly towards the bowlers in the old days," he explained. 

Peter Pollock was equally pleased with South Africa's success Down Under and said, "When I was in Australia in September I told the media that for the first time after readmission a South African cricket team would arrive believing that they could beat the Aussies. 

"...we are country that is going through transition so every time we do something good we really hang on to it. This series victory is one of the better moments of South African sport, no question about it," he said.

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