CWC: Beefy backs Proteas
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – South Africa earned some lofty global laurels on Monday for their thrilling Cricket World Cup victory over India in Nagpur at the weekend.
The triumph also led to a few prominent experts upgrading the Proteas’ chances of claiming the hitherto elusive trophy for the first time.
Writing in his column in The Times of India, England legend Sir Ian Botham, for instance, said: “This World Cup is about sides that have the bowling to take wickets -- so that makes Australia and South Africa the two most dangerous sides.
“In my book, India were never the favourites for the World Cup.
“(They) should have won that game. But the fact that India again did not bat out the overs shows there are some frailties in that Indian batting lineup (too).”
Cricinfo’s Sharda Ugra, remaining rather more upbeat about India, noted: “The match was what it was meant to be: a contest between the World Cup’s two strongest contenders who had just spent the better part of the southern hemisphere summer banging heads.
“When they met again in Nagpur, in India’s biggest game of this World Cup so far, the head-banging continued. It was a riveting contest, filled with incident, individuals falling and rising within the space of a few overs, teams rising and falling and rising within hours.
“Beaten by England when they should have won, triumphant in Nagpur when they could have lost, South Africa have risen. India, who have talked about raising their tempo, finding their rhythm, gaining momentum, have fallen.
“They were tripped not by the familiar frailties that had come up against the weaker teams, but against a newer, more threatening anxiety. That when India are up against one of the best and most varied bowling attacks in the World Cup, their strongest suit could suddenly go shabby.
“Nine for 29 (the toppling of India’s last nine wickets against the Proteas after a tearaway start – Sport24) is a coded message sent out by the Indian batsmen to all other frontline teams in the World Cup to take a close look at India’s flaws. That the fortress could be breached.”
Meanwhile columnist Simon Hughes of the UK’s Daily Telegraph, once a seam bowler for Northern Transvaal in the old Currie Cup, offered an interesting suggestion as to where the difference between the two sides ultimately lay on Saturday: “South Africa’s superior fitness and muscularity finally capitalised on India’s earlier negligence with the bat.”
It was a significant comment because at the 2007 World Cup, in the Caribbean, the Proteas found themselves targets of suggestions that fitness levels in their ranks were unsatisfactory after bouts of cramping by some players.
And fitness trainer Adrian le Roux resigned after the tournament, noting in a controversial report that “use of alcohol within the national team is a problem”.
Have some lessons been learned in 2011, perhaps?