New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) The West Indies are no longer the invincible force they once were, though on paper they look good enough to give South Africa a run for their money when they play their first 2011 World Cup match here Thursday.
The two are fascinating and skillful sides when it comes to limited-overs cricket. One thing is for sure that their brand of the game is riveting.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) ODI rankings show a big gap between the two sides, the South Africans are fourth whereas the Caribbean side is languishing at the eighth position.
Their recent head-to-head record is not inspiring, the South Africans hammering West Indies 5-0 when the two last met in 2010.
The other talking point on the eve of the match is the Kotla pitch and how it will behave. The curators are confident that it will have something for both the batsmen and bowlers but many are keeping their fingers crossed after the India-Sri Lanka match in December 2009 was called off after 23 overs as the pitch was considered “dangerous” and the venue was banned from hosting international games for a year.
There was no way West Indies could have improved their cricketing status as they had not played any worthwhile cricket last year, spending much of the time quarreling with their board on central contracts. In the run-up to the World Cup, they were beaten 0-3 in Sri Lanka and they again lost to the island nation in the warm-up game.
“World Cup is a big occasion and that is what really counts. We have to take the responsibility,” insists destructive opener Chris Gayle.
South Africa had no such problems coming here. They had a good tune-up, having won a tough series 3-2 at home against India.
“We know their (South African) capabilities. They are of top quality and we cannot slacken against them. We have to play our top game to beat them. Once we get a sniff in, we could actually try and capitalise on it as much as possible. All teams are beatable,” said Gayle.
The team from the Caribbean islands has spent five days in Delhi acclimatising themselves whereas the South Africans arrived only Monday.
For sheer class and the composition of the side, the Proteas look far superior to the West Indies. Their bowling attack is one of the best in the tournament. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel are proven match winners. Left-arm pacers, Lonwabo Tsotsobe – with an excelled series against India – and Wayne Parnell are equally effective. In Johan Botha they have a reputed spinner. Left-arm tweaker Robin Peterson and Pakistan-born leggie Imran Tahir add variety to the spin attack.
The West Indies bowling attack lacks experience. Fast bowler Kemar Roach is talented, but has still to prove himself at the big stage. In Dwayne Bravo they have an all-rounder who is an ideal death-overs bowler. Captain Darren Sammy, Ravi Rampaul and Andre Russell, who is yet to make his ODI debut, are the other pacers. For spin, West Indies will mostly depend on tall Suleiman Benn and Gayle.
Batting is the West Indies’ strength. Destructive Gayle, experienced Shivnaraine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan are the pillars of their batting. Darren Bravo is highly talked of and Kieron Pollard and Dwayne can belt the ball.
South Africa have enviable openers in Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla, backed by AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Jean Paul Duminy in the middle order.
But they know that West Indies cannot be taken lightly.
“They (West Indies) are a dangerous side. They have got a few players who can change a game and we have got to be at our best. You can’t take any side lightly here because one result going against you can put you under pressure,” Kallis said.
“We have played some really good cricket against the West Indies of late. Hopefully we can start well to put them under pressure,” he added.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith, Devon Thomas (wicketkeeper), Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Andre Rusell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kirk Edwards
Umpires: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Amish Saheba (India)
Third umpire: Asoka de Silva (Sri Lanka)
Match refree: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)