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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Interview > Kepler Wessels

'Indian batsmen must put
Kiwi tour behind them'

February 11, 2003

Kepler Wessels has done what not too many cricketers have done: played Test match cricket for two countries.

Kepler WesselsTill the ban on South Africa was revoked, Wessels was a key member of Alan Border's Australian side, a dour, risk-free opener with extraordinary focus. Once the proteas returned to world cricket, Wessels went back to his home-country, piloting them on their first World Cup sortie. He spoke to Assistant Editor Faisal Shariff in Cape Town. Excerpts:

First things first. Who are your favourites to win the World Cup?

Australia and South Africa. Pakistan has a good bowling attack; if their batsmen get their act together, they can be formidable. West Indies might be the dark horse. New Zealand will be the side which will upset a few teams in this tournament.

What about India?

India has a good batting line-up but they will have to overcome the shock of the New Zealand tour. If their confidence has not taken too much of a knocking, then the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag can give India a real chance. The fast bowling line-up is limited, which might be a disadvantage in these conditions. But if the seamers and the spinners, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, can get their act together, India can do very well.

What are the general trends you foresee in this edition of the World Cup?

I don't think that the slam-bang theory will work in the first 15 overs here because the wickets do too much early on. South African conditions do not allow for much reverse swing. Which means, with wickets in hand, teams can launch into attack mode at the end. Also the Kookaburra balls don't wear as much as they do on sub-continental wickets. So in the last 10 overs, they can really go for a lot of runs. Whichever team reads the conditions properly and plans accordingly will win.

The defeat against West Indies notwithstanding, how do you view this South African side?

South Africa has a very good combination for the tournament. The team is well balanced for South African conditions. Along with Australia, they are favourites to win the 'Cup. I don't think that the batting is vulnerable; in fact, it is very strong. They bat right down to number nine. All the nine are capable of winning a match off their bat.

What do they lack that might prevent a maiden title triumph?

This is South Africa's fourth World Cup campaign since returning to international cricket. In 1992 we were plain unlucky when rain intervened and we were suddenly left to score 22 runs off one ball. In the last two World Cups, South Africa was by far the best team coming into the tournament. But I think the pressure got to them. This time, it would be interesting to see how they cope with the pressure in home conditions and if they will go all the way.

From your experience as a captain, is it important for everyone to shoulder the pressure or should the skipper lead the way? How do you rate Shaun Pollock?

The captain must lead the way and if he does, the others will follow. The captain needs to be a strong leader. Pollock is a good captain. The good thing about him is that he can bat and bowl and set an example. From that point of view, he is very good as skipper.

Who will dominate this World Cup? Specialists or all-rounders?

Specialists win you World Cups. In the opening game, Brian Lara showed that with his brilliant batting. All-rounders add value to the balance of the team but specialists consistently win you games. All-rounders are significant but specialists will win you the trophy.

But South Africa's team comprises of all-rounders...

South Africa has all-rounders but they also have good specialist players. South Africa does not have bits and pieces players like England have; who are not good enough to compete at this level. South Africa has some very good players.

Has South African cricket overcome the issue of racism?

It's a problem that people have gotten used to and I don't think that it is a problem any more. I don't think too many people think about it any longer. There are enough coloured people coming through to play for the country. The cricket board has abolished the quota system, which is a good thing. Each provincial side has enough representation for coloured people.

Does racism in cricket exist only in South Africa or it is a worldwide problem? Darren Lehmann isn't South African.

I don't know about Lehmann. I don't think South African players ever really refers to others as colored. I think from a South African point of view racism is not really an issue any longer.

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Sub: Lessons from the recent New Zealand Cricket Tour

Dear Sirs, We should not just put the recent New Zealand Cricket Tour behind us. We should learn from our mistakes. Is it possible that ...

Posted by Kashinath Dandeker


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