Proteas target redemption
South Africa are intent on ending their West Indies hoodoo in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final.
Although South Africa have won 19 of the past 24 completed one-day internationals between the sides, they have suffered defeat in both their most recent tournament encounters: a three-run nail-biter in the 2003 World Cup and a more hefty loss in the previous Champions Trophy four years ago.
Consistency has been a problem for Brian Lara’s reigning champions over recent years, although in India they have shown a marked reluctance to relinquish the crown they won in England two years ago.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith hopes they blow cold on Thursday, as they did against Sri Lanka and England, rather than display the heat of Group A wins over Australia and India.
“West Indies have some top-class players and if they come off on their day they can beat any team in the world as we have seen with them beating Australia in the earlier part of the tournament,” said Smith.
“Their unpredictable nature can count against them but it can also be a major bonus for them.
“They have match-winners but there’s no doubt in my mind we have a team unit that can really dominate most games in world cricket at the moment.”
South Africa have lived up to their second-place ranking in one-day internationals with some clinical displays in their three matches to date, each played at a different venue.
The semi-final will complete the set of tournament venues, and Smith said: “Adapting to conditions has been key and that is what we have done well. This will be the same challenge and we will have to adapt again.”
Poor starts when batting have plagued South Africa’s contests to date - they have lost three wickets inside the opening 10 overs on each occasion and recovered from 42 for five to beat Pakistan by a comfortable margin last week.
“Most top orders have struggled so far in this tournament. The new ball has been a very difficult place to bat and if we could get off to a good start that would be a huge bonus for us,” said Smith.
“It will allow the rest of the batsmen the chance to attack and play a far more aggressive game.”
South Africa are considering dropping the out-of-touch Boeta Dippenaar for Loots Bosman.
Although it would be for a cricketing reason, such a move would enhance Cricket South Africa’s quest to fulfil a quota of four players of colour in each side; there were three - Herschelle Gibbs, Makhaya Ntini and Charl Langeveldt - against Pakistan.
Integrating non-white cricketers into the top level of the sport has been a sensitive issue in the post-apartheid era.
“It is not only the cricket team which is undergoing efforts to transform itself, it is the entire society back in South Africa,” said convenor of selectors Haroon Lorgat, reiterating CSA’s position after being scrutinised in the Indian media.
“We do not pick a player on the basis of his colour. In the first instance you have to be worthy of selection, an individual has to have the potential to succeed at the highest level.
“In the current squad we have for the Champions Trophy every one of those players, including the black players, deserve to be here and any one of them is worth his place in the team.
“What we try to achieve is certain targets in trying to transform our team. If we come short of those targets, that’s it. We are not going to pick someone on the basis of his colour.
“If we exceed those targets we will be ecstatic because we will have done better than we’ve aspired to.”