Smith: We're no longer nearly men

ICC World Twenty20 2009

Graeme Smith & Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Graeme Smith leads by example with 26 to set up South Africa's fifth win in as many matches at the 2009 ICC World Twenty20

Graeme Smith believes his South Africa side will prove they have shed their tag as perennial ‘chokers’ after making it five wins from five en route to the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20.

The Proteas saw off India in their final Super Eights clash at Trent Bridge and will return to the same venue for their semi-final against Pakistan on Thursday.

Previous South Africa sides have been accused of wilting under pressure at the business end of big tournaments, but Smith believes times have changed.

“I think we’ve come past that,” Smith said after his side defended a modest 130 for five to beat the holders by 12 runs.

“This team has come a long way and I think we’ve proven that. Hopefully we can show that on Thursday, that’s what is exciting about it.

“How we’ve played under pressure has been incredible. Pakistan are a talented team who will arrive expecting to beat us. Regardless of who deserves to win going into a semi-final it’s about who plays best on the day. It’s a simple matter.”

The bookmakers currently rate the Proteas as the favourites to lift the trophy and inherit India’s mantle in the shortest form of the game, and Smith can see why they are well fancied.

“We are professional and clinical but I think we’ve also proven that we have enough flair and enough options available to us to be the all-round package,” said the captain.

“We’ve played at all the grounds, we’ve faced many different challenges on different wickets and defended low totals.

“So I think we’re a well-rounded team going into the semis.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's 12-ball five at Trent Bridge reflected a very disappointing tournament for the defending champions

“We just need to give ourselves the best chance on Thursday and go out playing our type of cricket.

“Tactically I think we have our line-up right. It’s nice to have both pace and spin available to us and I think we have all options covered.”

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted disappointment at how his side had fared in England but defended their handling of Virender Sehwag’s injury earlier in the competition.

There was some confusion over the batsman’s participation in the early stages of the competition and, although he joined the team in England, he was eventually ruled out with a shoulder injury.

“At times, you can’t say everything because you want the opposition team to still think about Virender Sehwag,” said Dhoni.

“Whether he is playing or not, you want them to waste at least that half an hour in their team meeting thinking about that.

“You can’t just say ‘This is our playing XI - Virender Sehwag is not fit’.

“I prefer announcing the team maybe one hour before the game.

“At times, you have to hide things. It happens. That’s what happened and it’s for the good of the side.

“I can’t just open my heart and tell all the strategies. There are things that have to be kept secret.”

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