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January 30, 2003 19:14 IST

Andrew Hall has developed a potent addition to his bowling armory that could be a key weapon for South Africa at the World Cup.

He has developed a slower delivery out of the back of the hand similar to that which made West Indies legend Courtney Walsh and Australian medium-pacer Ian Harvey such effective limited-overs bowlers.

'It is something Andrew has been working on in the past couple of weeks,' South African coach Eric Simons said. 'It is important for bowlers to have a variation delivery so that opposing batsmen always have a slight worry at the back of their minds.'

Hall said he struggled to bowl the slower ball initially, but a few tips from Allan Donald made all the difference. 'Allan immediately spotted what I was doing wrong. He has taught me to dip my shoulder in the delivery stride and, as a result, I am getting better every day.'

West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels could miss a whole year of cricket.

The 22 year old had already confronted the heartache of missing the World Cup when surgery earlier this month revealed serious problems.

On Monday the West Indies management took the tough decision to replace him in the squad with Ryan Hinds.

Now, the West Indies Cricket Board has produced a lengthy statement revealing the extent of damage to Samuels' knee.

Dr Akhsai Mansingh told them he was 'amazed at the size of the defect' in the Jamaican right-hander's knee. He recommended surgery at the earliest opportunity, having assessed 'progressive damage' to the joint.

New Zealand may refuse to play their World Cup match against Kenya unless it is moved.

The Kiwis are due to play the Kenyans in Nairobi on February 21.

But the New Zealand government has warned its cricketers not to play the match because of the threat of terrorism in the African country.

Kenyan police have dismissed the cricketers' fears. A spokesman said it was safe for them to play and accused New Zealand of making outrageous statements.

Kenya captain Steve Tikolo hopes the game would go ahead in Nairobi.

Former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin has lost his right to appeal against a life ban imposed on him for alleged match-fixing.

A Hyderabad city court dismissed Azharuddin's call for arbitration to review the ban imposed in 2000 by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Azharuddin sought an arbitrator after former team-mate Ajay Jadeja had his ban overturned on Monday by the New Delhi high court.

In his appeal to the Hyderabad court, Azharuddin said his case was similar to Jadeja's and asked that the same arbitrator be appointed.

The court rejected the appeal, saying while the BCCI and Jadeja had both agreed to have his case arbitrated, the Board had not entered into such an agreement with Azharuddin.

The judge in the Jadeja case dismissed the findings of the BCCI's disciplinary panel, saying clear and definitive charges were never levelled against Jadeja.

The Board said it will seek legal opinion on the decision which allows Jadeja to resume his career.

Anti-crime tips advising fans, players and officials attending the World Cup to retaliate against their assailants have been slammed as 'ridiculous.'

Police and ICC World Cup 2003 officials said fans, players and officials should ignore tips provided by South African-based Sport Security Management on an Indian web site, and instead follow standard, official guidelines.

SSM claims to have been appointed to oversee security arrangements for the World Cup, but both a police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Selby Bokaba, and World Cup Communications Director Rodney Hartman said the company had been contracted only to provide close protection for players, and could not speak on behalf of the World Cup Organising Committee.

SSM advises fans to retaliate if they are hijacked or if someone tried to rape them.

This contradicts the ICC, South African police and South Africa Tourism safety tips, which recommend to those being robbed or hijacked to do as they are told, not to argue or challenge their assailant, and not look them in the eye.

Matthew Hayden says he does not want to shake hands with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe during the World Cup and hopes to avoid having to do so.

Hayden joined England Captain Nasser Hussain in expressing reservations about shaking hands with the controversial African leader.

'What I'm going to do is rely on the fact that we have a terrific ground staff and support staff behind us to hopefully not put us in any position when that can happen,' Hayden told Australian television before the team departed for South Africa.

'In my opinion that (a handshake) seriously compromises the values and traditions of what I'm about and I wouldn't like to do that.'

The Pakistan cricket team remains the star attraction for the South African media though Canada, England and New Zealand have also arrived.

The newspapers discussed Pakistan's strengths and weakness and compared them with other teams.

The unanimous view is Pakistan remains a very dangerous side and one of the favourites for the World Cup even though they had a disastrous tour to South Africa late last year.

The Star newspaper had an interesting view about the Pakistan team.

'When it comes to glamour in world cricket, few teams encapsulate the term better than the Pakistanis. Designer shades, elegantly styled hair and, for some, Hollywood good looks,'  The Star wrote.

It continued: 'For those not interested in the sex appeal of international cricketers, they're a fairly exciting side when in the mood -- as indicated by the fact that four of their pool matches are already sold out.

'But those who saw the Pakistanis here a mere three weeks ago are still wondering just which side will pitch up on the field for that potentially mouth-watering opening tie at the Wanderers against Australia on February 11.

'If it's the same Pakistan side that was so emphatically defeated at Lord's four years ago, then punters may want to look elsewhere to put their money. If it's the Pakistan team that so enthralled the world in the later stages of the World Cup in 1992, then no one need look further for the 2003 champions.'

The newspaper added: 'It has become a cliche to describe Pakistan as unpredictable, but it is that very nature which makes them such a dangerous side for the eighth edition of the World Cup.'

Former pop star and celebrity fundraiser Sir Bob Geldof is behind an attempt to get England out of their controversial match in Zimbabwe.

Geldof and The Aegis Trust, a human rights organisation, have joined forces to raise £1 million. They say the amount will cover the financial penalties England would face if they boycotted their Harare match on February 13.

This comes as World Cup authorities face mounting pressure to move the matches from Zimbabwe and Kenya to South Africa because of security concerns.

Journalists and commentators travelling to Zimbabwe for the World Cup were on Tuesday warned that they might be targets for militant aggression.

David Coltart, a member of Zimbabwe's Opposition Movement for Democratic Change, warned that 'hate speech' in the country had affected sections of the community and journalists might suffer as a result.

A leading sports psychologist formerly attached to the South African cricket team believes by dedicating the World Cup to Hansie Cronje, two senior players may have indirectly expressed their concern about their current leadership.

Dr Ken Jennings, who served as the team's psychologist between April 2000 and May 2001, added that the contentious issue has the potential to divide the side in the future.

Jonty Rhodes and Allan Donald caused a stir -- and the United Cricket Board considerable embarrassment -- when they declared last week that they would dedicate next month's contest to the disgraced Cronje.

'This hankering after Hansie should be considered on two levels,' Jennings said.

'Firstly it is a reflection of the direct result of the huge influence he had on his team-mates while captaining the side but indirectly, the pair may also be expressing some concern for the present leadership of the side.

'The issue may have the potential to divide the side on some level in the future, especially in stressful situations.'

Jennings stressed that Rhodes and Donald's dedication did not mean they condoned what Cronje did. Rather, they were showing their empathy and support for a very dear friend.

'It's quite a complex phenomenon,' added Jennings. 'One can't underestimate the deep relationships Hansie forged with some members of the side. One has to respect those very powerful relationships. You can't just take that away.'

Australia will be Gary Kirsten's preferred opponents if South Africa reach the World Cup final.

The side's senior professional spoke of the new mood in the camp where a spirit of adventure and the desire to be the player to make a difference has replaced a fear of failure.

It confirmed the difference between last season's team shellacked by Australia and this season's combination.

'Last season you used to ask 'why?' when you were told to do something. This season you simply go out and do it.'

Kirsten said it was important South Africa put one over Australia at whatever stage of the tournament.

Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist head the betting to be top scorers in the World Cup, while the odds to be top bowler are wide open.

Bookmakers Williams Hill rate Hayden 10-1 to score the most runs in the February 9 to March 23 championship with Australian captain Ponting 11-1 and Gilchrist 14-1.

South Africans Herschel Gibbs, Jacques Kallis and Gary Kirsten are level with India's Sachin Tendulkar on 16-1. West Indies star Brian Lara, who has recently returned to action after a mystery illness, is a 20-1 shot along with India's Virender Sehwag.

Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne, paceman Glenn McGrath and South African allrounder Shaun Pollock are joint favourites at 12-1 to take the most wickets.

Then come two more Aussies, Brett Lee (14-1) and Jason Gillespie (16-1). South African pacemen Allan Donald and Makhaya Ntini and Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, Pakistan spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and Indian seam bowler Javagal Srinath all are 20-1.

Defending champions Australia remains strong 11-8 favourites to retain the trophy with host South Africa rated a 9-4 shot.

Next are India (8-1), New Zealand (10-1), Pakistan (11-1), West Indies (14-1), England and Sri Lanka (both 16-1), Zimbabwe (66-1), Kenya (250-1), Bangladesh (500-1), Netherlands, Namibia and Canada all at 1000-1.

South Africa's World Cup players have been tested for drugs ahead of the tournament.

For the first time, drug testing will take place during the World Cup, with two players from both sides likely to be selected at random for tests after each match.

Coach Eric Simons said all 15 South African players were tested.

'It's something that has been coming for about a year. The players have had lectures over the past few months and they have been given booklets setting out what substances are prohibited,' said Simons.

'They have also been told to declare any medication or asthma pumps they might be on.'

The Barmy Army will be under cover at the World Cup.

Instead of publishing their whereabouts and movements on their web site, the gang of English supporters have bowed to security organisers and will only pass on the information by word of mouth.

England's game in Zimbabwe is already in doubt because of security fears, but the Barmy Army has been warned of the possibility of being targeted elsewhere.

In a message to the 2,000 fans expected to travel to the World Cup, the colourful supporters club, which has been in existence for a decade, has recommended they don't broadcast their travel plans.

'Due to heightening fears over security during the World Cup, we have been advised by the powers that be in the cricket world not to advertise our whereabouts on the web site,' the Barmy Army said in a statement.

'The South African authorities have told us that travelling in large groups in tourist areas is a serious security risk.

'Since this is exactly what we will be doing, we will be passing on information about parties, drinking holes, cricket matches, football matches etc through word of mouth at the games.'

There is another incentive to motivate Allan Donald even further in his fourth and last Cricket World Cup -- and that is to become the man who has taken the most wickets in the tournament.

The 36-year-old fast bowler has taken 37 World Cup wickets and is only six behind the man currently in the lead, Pakistan's Wasim Akram who has 43 scalps to his name.

Wasim, who is also 36, has played in 10 more World Cup matches (32) than Donald (22).

Donald expressed surprise he was so close to Wasim whom he regards as the most skilful bowler he has ever encountered in world cricket.

'Apart from being an incredibly mean bowler, he also has the ability to swing the ball like nobody else. He is without a doubt the best bowler I have ever played against.

'It will be quite a challenge to me to overtake him as the top wicket taker in World Cup cricket. One never knows. If you start off well with four wickets in the first match and from there on take an average of two in the other matches nothing would be impossible.'

The other fast bowlers Donald holds in high regard are Glenn McGrath and the West Indies duo of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

Two minor technical changes to the bowling techniques of allrounder Jacques Kallis and pace bowler Makhaya Ntini could make the difference for South Africa.

Corrie van Zyl, the team's bowling coach, said Kallis and Ntini were reaping the rewards of minor, but ultimately significant changes to their bowling actions.

'At this level you cannot change a player's action too drastically. Kallis and Ntini worked hard on the adjustments during the off-season. The end result is better discipline and that leads to more wickets,' said Van Zyl.

'We realised Makhaya's recovery action after delivery was not quite what it should be. After thorough analysis we realised he was ever so slightly off balance at the beginning of his delivery stride.

'After the analysis he only had to concentrate on the angle of his run-up which led to him having greater control of his deliveries due to the better balance during his delivery stride,' Van Zyl explained.

He praised Ntini's work ethic. 'His improvement began in Australia. After we pointed out his problem, he never hesitated to put in all the extra hours needed to get on top of the adjustments.'

Ricky Ponting said Australia could not afford another tardy start as it chases a record third World Cup cricket crown.

Steve Waugh's Australians came back from the brink in the 1999 tournament in England, losing two of their first three games before being unbeaten in their last seven. They humiliated Pakistan by eight wickets in the final at Lord's.

This time, Australia's first two matches are against group rivals Pakistan and India on February 11 and 15. Lose them both and a berth in the Super Sixes stage would be all but out of reach before the tournament hotted up.

'Hopefully, we won't get off to that sort of start again,' Ponting said on Wednesday. 'We had our backs to the wall for most of the last World Cup. Probably our two biggest games are our first two so we've got to be on the ball right from ball one, to make sure we're there and we're ready to play.'

Former Pakistan pacer Sarfraz Nawaz said a gambling and match fixing mafia is active ahead of the World Cup and a clean event was not possible.

The International Cricket Council last month claimed cricket's quadrennial event will be corruption free.

'The ICC's Anti Corruption Unit has non-technical, cigar smoking people who can't gauge what's been done wrong on and off the field, only former players can gauge how the matches are fixed,' said Nawaz.

Nawaz testified before two fixing inquiries in Pakistan and alleged Pakistani and leading international players of involvement in match fixing, but could not substantiate his allegations.

The former pacer, who also played for Northamptonshire in the 1970s, tipped South Africa to lift the Cup.

He criticised Pakistani selectors for picking 'ageing horses' in their Cup squad.

'There are six oldies in Pakistan's team, Wasim, Waqar, Anwar, Inzamam, Rashid Latif and Saqlain Mushtaq who should have retired last year, and two unfit players in Azhar Mahmood and Inzamam which has disturbed the team combination,' he said.

'Inzamam can't stay at the crease for more than 35, 40 runs because he takes injections to soothe his knee and heel pain.

'If Pakistan's team reached the Super Sixes stage it would be their best result,' Nawaz said.

Blaming the Indian staff of Wisden, former New Zealand cricket captain Martin Crowe has discontinued his column on its web site.

Crowe had come under fire in his country for writing that Maori cricketers lacked the patience and temperament to play cricket.

Stating it was a misunderstanding, Crowe apologised on television to the community recently.

Last week, Crowe said he would not continue writing for the web site.

Admitting the sentence in his column was unacceptable, Crowe said it had resulted from a genuine mistake.

He explained that the Wisden ghostwriter asked him why few Maori made it to the top in New Zealand cricket, to which he replied, 'I dunno, I guess they have not really warmed to cricket and they don't particularly like the longer version of the sport as opposed to rugby and league (football) and what have you.'

Crowe stated at no point did he believe that Maoris did not have the temperament to succeed at cricket.

'The sentence that got highlighted was a poorly written one in terms of the Indian editor not understanding the implications of talking about a race,' Crowe said.

Sri Lanka are cautiously optimistic that Muttiah Muralitharan will be able to play in their crucial World Cup opener against New Zealand on February 10.

Muralitharan pulled a quadriceps muscle in his left thigh during the recent triangular series in Australia.

'Murali is improving slowly but steadily,' said Sri Lanka physio Alex Kontouri. 'Being the World Cup we are being a little bit cautious but I am fairly confident that he will be available for the first game.'

'The ideal situation is that he plays in our second practice match on February 6 but if he is not fit for that we will obviously have to look at him going straight into the side against New Zealand,' said Kontouri.

Sri Lanka also have injury concerns over fast bowler Pulasthi Gunaratne, the frontrunner to take the new ball with left-armer Chaminda Vaas during the tournament.

Gunaratne was forced to return early from Australia and has only just resumed bowling again off his full run-up.

'Pulasthi is the only real concern with his knee,' revealed Kontouri. 'He's not quite 100 per cent although he's now bowling full pace. The problem is his agility in the field but I am hopeful he will be ready in time.'

Fast bowler Prabath Nissanka has recovered from a hamstring injury. 


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