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March 13, 2000


Indian Safari

The Rediff Cricket Interview / Hansie Cronje

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'Whether it be cricket or rugby or soccer or any other sport, we want to be number one in the world'

Hansie Cronje The last time he was in India four years ago, Wessel Johannes 'Hansie' Cronje came very close to achieving what every captain dreams of -- a Test series victory over India in India -- until Javagal Srinath and Mohammad Azharuddin decided otherwise. But he accomplished that feat last week by winning the second Test at Bangalore by an innings and handing India one its most comprehensive defeats at home, something illustrious captains like Mark Taylor, Richie Richardson and Graham Gooch failed to.

Till recently, Cronje was having a rough time with the United Cricket Board of South Africa which forced him to sign a contract to coach Glamorgan after he was named captain for just the first two Tests for the series against England. In a freewheeling conversation with Faisal Shariff, the 30-year-old from Bloemfontein spoke about the controversies surrounding him and also cleared the air about his future plans.

You played under Kepler Wessels who has captained South Africa for so long. Can you tell me one quality that you learnt from him about captaincy?

I think the very good one was discipline and hard work for international cricket -- you need to be fit.

What according to you is the essence of captaincy?

I don't think there is one ingredient that is important. I think you have got to have different captaincy styles, and obviously my style of captaincy is not the same as Kepler Wessels, Clive Lloyd or Mike Gatting. Each person has his own different way of captaining, and I think my philosophy has been that I have got to see that every member of the team feels really important in my team.

What are the other qualities that a captain should have to be successful?

I think unselfishness, and to try and get the best out of the players.

Where do you asses yourself as a captain?

No, I don't like to do that. I just like to say that I have had one of the best teams in the world to captain and it has been a real privilege; it is not for me to judge myself.

What was the reason that you made a statement saying that this team is so good that anyone could captain it? Were you just trying to be modest?

Hansie Cronje Not really, I had to teach all the players to look after themselves; the team to be able to run without anyone looking after them. And it has got to be said that the team has learnt to cope with all situations. Anyone of the eleven can captain the team and it is not just me that is making the difference.

Hansie, you have achieved a Test series win for the first time in 14 years. What kind of homework did you do before you got here to India, knowing what you were up against?

I think it was difficult to do homework specifically on the Indian tour because we were busy with the Test series and the one-day series against England and Zimbabwe. But I think the last 20 months or so, the guys have been playing some fantastic Test cricket. It all started in September '98 when we had a batting camp and we discussed batting whether it be spin bowling or fast bowling or any type of bowling because that was the one error that let us down. And coming here with Pollock, Kallis and Donald who had been here in '96 has made a real big difference for the team.

What do you think you lacked last time? You had been so close to a Test series win...

Hansie Cronje Last time we lacked the ability to play against spin with confidence and also we had two very key injuries. We had injuries to Donald and Jonty Rhodes in the last Test match, and also Pollock and Kallis didn't tour due to injuries. It is four very good players not playing the series. But you can't take anything away from India. They played better than us and we probably were hoping for a win. This time we knew that we can win.

South Africa have been involved in some technology in the game, where do you think should one draw the line?

I am completely for technology. We have the facility to study every single ball that has been bowled in the day's play, and try to analyse guys like Kumble and Srinath who have bowled, and try a strategy against them.

Don't you think that would be unfair on the part of the umpires?

I don't think technology in umpiring should go any further. I think it is perfect the way the third umpire has been introduced into the game.

Do you believe that the national team should be based on merit or there should be reservation for the coloured players?

I think for too long the South African team has been picked on colour. We had only whites playing for South Africa and I think that there should be some encouragement for players of colour to play in the team and even if it is going to take us 5 to 15 years to introduce those players that is good. You want to pick a team that is good enough to beat the opposition, but you also want to keep in mind that you have got to give players of colour an opportunity to get into international cricket and be role models for the next generation.

Do you believe that there has been a change in the thinking of the whites in South Africa?

Yes, definitely. I think the thinking has been mainly with the older generation; the generation of my age and younger than me have been fully integrated and there is no racial segregation or any difference.

It has just been a decade since South Africa has been readmitted, what has been the reason for the meteoric rise?

The hunger for success, the team spirit, the total belief in themselves and the desire to be number one in the world. Whether it be cricket or rugby or soccer or any other sport, we want to be number one in the world. And lot has been done in the last ten years to get us there.

Do you also serve for a year or two in the military? Do you think that has also to do with the discipline of South Africa?

I was going to go to the military services in 1992, but then it got cancelled. The whole military system got cancelled when President Mandela came out of prison. It used to be there but not any more.


'If I had scored one run we would have won the World Cup'


Mail Faisal Shariff