Nowhere to hide for South Africa, says Smith

Graeme Smith says hiding from the Proteas' longstanding failure to win a major tournament is not an option if they are to triumph in the World Twenty20.

Updated: May 01, 2010 07:51 IST
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Gros Islet:South Africa captain Graeme Smith says hiding from the Proteas' longstanding failure to win a major tournament is not an option if they are to triumph in the World Twenty20.

"You guys (the press) keep raising the questions, as do people in the public, so it's not something, until we actually go on to win a tournament, we are really going to be able to hide away from," said Smith.

"I think hiding away would be the wrong way to look at it."

South Africa, who begin their World Twenty20 quest against India at the Beausejour Stadium here on Sunday, have been beaten semi-finalists in seven ICC events going back to the 1992 World Cup.

But they've reached only one final, winning the inaugural Champions Trophy, then known as the ICC Knockout, in 1998.

At the 2009 World Twenty20 in England they lost in the last four to Pakistan, who went on to win the final.

"The time has always come (to put the record straight)," opening batsman Smith added. "Everyone is trying to win."

"The nature of Twenty20 is that the teams are so close together, it's such small margins that make the difference at the end of the day.

"Ultimately it is an honour, a privilege to put yourself in a position to win the tournament.

"But it's a long way away at the moment from every team here. So we are just going to focus on India, which is our first game.

"We are not the only favourites in the tournament, we never really are the only favourites."

South Africa's exit at the 1999 World Cup, where they went out on a tie with Australia, has left them with an unflattering label of "chokers" they've still to lose, despite other sides being on the wrong end of close results.

"It's just something that's made the media's lives a little bit easier, a better story to write," said a smiling Smith.

But during last year's World Twenty20, South Africa achieved the notable feat of beating India on a turning pitch at Trent Bridge.

And with several South Africans, Smith included, having played in the Indian Premier League (IPL), India are a familiar proposition for the Proteas.

"We've played India a little bit of late and with a lot of our guys involved in the IPL, we've first hand knowledge of a lot of their players.

"We've got some really good thoughts about playing India. We've had success (against India) in the last tournament and this tournament generally, we've had a lot of success without going all the way."

South Africa, who've been resting pacemen Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis after their time in the IPL, could field a side featuring two specialist spinners in Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe.

"It definitely is an option," Smith said. "Most of the wickets seem to be a little bit slower and taking a bit of spin.

"Our options are open, in our armoury we've got pace and spin so I think we've got enough there to challenge India's batters."

Meanwhile Smith was also coy as to the identity of his fellow opener.

"Tactically we are still looking at a few things against India.

"We might be a little bit more versatile than just keeping two guys for the whole tournament. We might mix it around a little bit."

Smith said it was too early to say whether playing in the IPL would be a help or a hindrance to a side's World Twenty20 chances, although he couldn't resist pointing out India, who play Afghanistan here on Saturday, start with two matches in as many days.

"India start with back-to-back games so how they gel as a team and play in this environment, it is going to be interesting to see."

Smith, asked what he'd found out from playing alongside India's Yusuf Pathan in the IPL, jokingly replied: "I know that Yusuf likes daal and eats a lot before he walks onto the field!"

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