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South Africa captain Graeme Smith believes Kevin Pietersen's retirement from international limited-overs cricket will leave "a big hole in his life". Interviewed in the latest issue of Wisden's free online magazine, Wisden EXTRA, Smith says: "It's impossible to know what you're giving up, and how hard it will hit you, until it's gone. One-day cricket has been a big part of his life for a very long time and, right now, he thinks he can just walk away from it. Maybe he can. But I think he'll quickly find there's a big hole in his life which isn't as easy to cope with as he may think.
Smith continues: "I don't have any inside information at all, so I'm just looking from the outside, but if there's any truth that his decision was partly based on the disagreements he had with the ECB and the way they treated him, then I believe he'll find it even harder to come to terms with the way his one-day career has ended. He just seemed to be back to his aggressive, attacking best, too. Very strange that he should give it away."
Smith gave up the South African one-day captaincy after last year's World Cup, but has no plans to follow Pietersen into retirement: "He's just turned 32, only a bit older than me, but I reckon my best ODI form is ahead of me, not behind me. I'm very keen to play limited-overs cricket and I'm still very ambitious."
Although his two previous tours to England have resulted in the resignation of opposing captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, Smith is not expecting to add a third scalp in Andrew Strauss.
"I could sense the pressure building on Strauss before the West Indies tour and I couldn't help putting two and two together," he says. "What if they had a bad series against the Windies and he didn't score many runs? But I'm pretty sure those two hundreds have made him safe now."
"He's [Strauss] obviously a very strong personality with that quiet determination that sees him getting things done and achieving things with the minimum of fuss. He seems to keep an iron fist in a velvet glove. He's also media savvy. He knows when to make a little comment or quip to feed the press something tasty and maybe deflect their attention from matters closer to home. He's smart."
Smith thinks his side holds the edge over England in a series that will decide which team ends up as No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings table.
"England are more disciplined, smarter and better prepared than four years ago, and all the players who are still around from the last series have got better. They are a very, very good team at home and deserve to be ranked No. 1.
"But we have also got better and we're also pretty useful in English conditions. They have home advantage and they're ranked ahead of us, but I'm not going to compete for underdog status! If some people want to make us favourites then I'll take that as a compliment, not reject it."
Asked to pinpoint the crucial areas between the two sides, he tells Wisden EXTRA: "I don't want to single out names, but our bowling attack is hard to live with when it's going well. I know England's is, too, but I'll back ours ahead of theirs. Same with the batting â€“ both strong, but I'd back ours again.
"Whatever happens, there's a very good chance that people will see some high-quality, intensely competitive cricket â€“ some cricket that people may remember for a quite a while afterwards. We both want to win very much. It's going to be quite a clash."
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