Proteas hope to inspire Bafana
Johannesburg - South Africa cricket captain Graeme Smith said on Saturday his team will be watching the football World Cup from the West Indies, and he hopes his cricketers can inspire the country's footballers.
Speaking before departing for the ICC World Twenty20 and the three-test series against West Indies, Smith said he and his players will gather around television screens to watch South Africa's biggest sporting event.
"Home country support will boost them," Smith said of the host nation's Bafana Bafana team, who open the World Cup against Mexico on June 11. "I'm sure they will play well."
His team will be playing a test against the West Indies in Jamaica when the world's attention is focused on South Africa.
"We won't be here for most of the World Cup, but we will be gathering around television sets and watching. I'm sure South Africa is going to deliver a wonderful World Cup," Smith said.
Before that, the Proteas are also under pressure to deliver at the World Twenty20 after a string of failures at major international tournaments.
South Africa have regularly been ranked at or near the top of world cricket's one-day rankings, but have never won the World Cup or the World Twenty20.
"You know that there's a lot of expectation. Everyone is hoping that we can bring back a trophy," Smith said. "It's a short tournament and its quite intense. What better way to give Bafana some confidence than if we do well in the Caribbean?"
Smith said there had been advantages to his monthlong layoff after he broke a finger in the early stages of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition in March.
"I have been able to spend quite a lot of time with (coach) Corrie (Van Zyl) and we've been able to do a lot of planning," said the opening batsman.
The majority of South Africa's 15-man squad left from Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport. They will be joined by vice-captain Jacques Kallis and fast bowler Dale Steyn, who played for Bangalore Royal Challengers in Saturday's victory over Deccan Chargers in the IPL third-place playoff. Chennai's Albie Morkel and JP Duminy and Ryan McLaren of Mumbai Indians are set to appear in Sunday's final before traveling to the Caribbean.
"The initial phase will be to get the players who've been in action in the IPL to refocus on the way we want to play." Smith said. "They've been working with different franchises, with different approaches to the game, and we need them to get back to the way we want to play."
The Proteas play warmup matches against Sri Lanka and England next week before the all-action World Twenty20 gets under way.
South Africa are grouped with the talent-filled India team and Afghanistan, who have made a rapid rise through the lower levels of international cricket.
"Afghanistan are a potential banana skin because they are unknown but have a lot of talented cricketers," Smith said earlier this week. "It's going to be nerve-racking playing them. ... I read one of their openers (Karim Sadiq) said he was not scared of facing Dale Steyn. I wouldn't be either if I grew up in a warzone."
Graeme Smith (captain), Jacques Kallis, Lungile Bosman, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Rory Kleinveldt, Charl Langeveldt, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Juan Theron, Roelof van der Merwe.