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'Nothing's sweeter than winning the World Cup at home'
February 08, 2003
After their return to international cricket, South Africa have had three cracks at cricket's most coveted title. Each time in vain. This time, though, as the main hosts of the 44-day tournament, the Proteas have their best chance yet. Shaun Pollock, the South Africa captain, talks to Ashish Magotra on the eve of the opening match about his team and its chances.
You play the West Indies in the first match of the World Cup tomorrow. What is it like taking them on after that close match in Colombo in the Champions Trophy?
We won that game although we didn't play well enough in some areas. The Windies are a good side. We have studied them hard and long, and we are focussed. We are only looking to the next match instead of planning too far ahead. I have not even thought about the match against New Zealand [February 16], and there is Kenya [February 12] before that.
South Africa goes into the tournament in a blaze of controversy. Do you see this working for [or against] you on home turf?
Once the cricket starts all the other controversies will be forgotten. Cricket is the main thing and we should be focussed on that. As for home pressure, we play at home all the time -- Tests and one-day matches. That is nothing to worry about. And, anyway, is there a sweeter place to win cricket's most coveted trophy than at home in front of your own people?
But the defeat against Western Province in the warm-up match must rankle?
We weren't focussed enough. I don't mind losing but if we lose without making our best effort, it is not on. I had a chat with the guys after the defeat and read them the riot act. In a way, the defeat was a wake-up call. That we should not get into that frame of mind or play that kind of cricket over the next six weeks.
Is the perception that South Africa's bowling attack is stronger than its batting line-up justified?
We have a lot of all-rounders and that is the reason our bowling looks strong. Andrew Hall can open the batting for us. [Jacques] Kallis, Lance [Klusener], [Nicky] Boje are all batsmen who are equally adept at bowling. We have more all-rounders than specialists and that presents the appearance that we have more bowlers in the side. I think we've given the guys the best opportunity to be ready for the tournament. That's the way we have picked our squad.
Do you foresee a South Africa vs Australia final as most people do?
There is a lot of positive talk in South Africa. Most South Africans would really like that game because of what has happened in the past and the way we played. But to think that far ahead is dangerous. We will just concentrate on our first game and take it from there. Obviously, from the host perspective, I would love to see ourselves in the final and we will be trying our damnedest to get there. But we wouldn't mind who we meet in the final as long as we make it to that stage.
You stepped into the captain's shoes at a very difficult time. What has it been like replacing Hansie Cronje?
Under Hansie I picked up a lot of points about captaincy. But it is important that you put your own style of captaincy into play. And that's what I am doing. I have learnt a lot from other captains, too, and will summon it during the World Cup.
Allan Donald and Jonty Rhodes have said that they will dedicate a South African victory in the finals to Cronje. How do you see that?
I don't see that troubling the team in anyway. Each individual who plays in the World Cup has some motivation or the other on why they want to win the tournament. Allan and Jonty have only voiced their opinion and I don't see that disturbing the focus of the South African team.
Every World Cup has seen a few new trends emerge. Do you see this tournament being any different for the earlier ones?
I am sure there will be some ideas that different teams will try out and it is always exciting to see the new players and trends come through.