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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Interview > Omar Henry

'I feel South Africa is going to win'

February 08, 2003

Omar Henry made his debut against India at Durban in the 1992-'93 series -- and, as it happens, played his last Test also on the same tour, at Cape Town.

The left-hand batsman and slow left arm bowler of then is now back as chairman of South Africa's selection committee -- in other words, the guy on who the onus falls to create a team that will do the host nation proud in the World Cup, and at the same time meet the political demands of post-apartheid South Africa.

Henry spoke to Ashish Magotra a day before Saturday's inauguration ceremony. Excerpts:

Is playing an event of this magnitude at home a blessing, or otherwise?

Playing at home is always a hugely motivating factor. The team has good all-round ability, it has good all-rounders, Makhaya Ntini has been on an upward curve, and the fielding standards have been traditionally high. It all works in favour of the home side.

Here, in South Africa, I find much debate about Graeme Smith's exclusion…

It is always difficult having to leave an in-form batsman out of the squad. If you pick 11 to start, you immediately drop the 12th man -- and the same can be said when you pick a 16, you are in effect leaving out the 16th man. In any sport, there will always be an unlucky player. As selectors, we had to look at the balance of the team, but it is not the end of the road for him. This is life, the ups and the downs. As long as he continues playing good cricket, he will always have a good chance.

South Africa's campaign opener is against the West Indies -- what are your thoughts about the game?

It is a very crucial game for both sides, and both teams will have butterflies. South Africa are playing at home, the West Indies have just come out of a tour of India where they played good cricket, but the conditions there were different. The priority for both teams will be to get rid of the butterflies, then try and find a way to win. If South Africa wins this game, the team will move from strength to strength.

The feeling here seems to be that it will be a South Africa versus Australia final…

Well, I think it's a bit of a dream, the mere fact that you are talking about the number one and number two teams making the final, that is an ideal situation. But it doesn't always happen that way -- if indeed it happens then it will be a real spectacle.

Asians seem to be big in South African cricket, is there some likelihood of one of them making the cut?

The Amla brothers (Hashim and Hamid both play for Kwa-Zulu Natal) are very good indeed, and if they continue to play well we could see them get into the squad in the near future. They need to be nurtured in a proper way, it is just a question of time. The infrastructure is in place to iron out their weaknesses.

Another point of much debate is the quota system for coloured players -- as head of the selection committee implementing it, what are your thoughts?

We at the UCB have taken two objectives on board this year. We want to select a winning team, and we also want to transform the system, and also transform the system by bringing in players of potential and talent, no matter what their color might be. We believe we are on the right track, and there is room for improvement. Everyone in the country has backed this squad and that is the way to be.

The traditional chestnut -- what do you predict for this World Cup?

I have a funny feeling that South Africa is going to win. We have played three Cups so far. In the 1992 edition we played with more heart than brain; in 1996 we were beaten by an inspired West Indies and Brian Lara; in 1999 we were unlucky again. So I think we have had our fair share of bad luck and maybe this is where history will be made.

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