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?I would like to open with Pollock?

Makhaya Ntini doesn't need much time to identify his favourite bowling partner. "Shaun Pollock," he says immediately.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2003 00:38 IST

Makhaya Ntini doesn't need much time to identify his favourite bowling partner. "Shaun Pollock," he says immediately. "I would definitely like to open the bowling for South Africa with Pollock."

Explaining his position, Ntini said the former captain has speed and more importantly, he can read a batsman's abilities very early. "That is a great advantage for a strike bowler."

The new captain, Graeme Smith, feels Pollock will be more effective coming in as the first change. Against India last Saturday, he surprised everyone by using Pollock as the fifth bowler. "After Allan Donald's retirement, Pollock is the best bowler we have," Ntini added.

Ntini took his 100th one-day international wicket when he dismissed Gautam Gambhir last Saturday. "It was a milestone that took a long time coming," he said.

He would have preferred to capture his 100th wicket in the World Cup, but South Africa's early exit ended his hopes. "I was stuck on 99 in the World Cup and knew I could achieve the landmark in the first match of my next tour. The wait was fruitful."

Gambhir's wicket gave him immense joy, although he would have liked either Virender Sehwag or Sourav Ganguly to be his 100th wicket. "But then the 100th wicket is a great achievement in itself and matters little who the batsman was."

The next target in 100 wickets in Tests. He is 13 short and the Test series that follows the TVS Cup here might give him the opportunity, if he bowls well.

"I have come a long way since debut. I had set a few deadlines for myself, learned from the captains I played under and the coaches. Overall, it has been fine."

Ntini, however, is known to be erratic. A very good spell tends to get undone by straying in line and length. "It is all in the mind," he said. "When you attempt to do something different or try too hard, you can become erratic." However, he would definitely want to control that.

Now, opening the bowling with new partners, Ntini has to take up the role of motivator, something which Pollock has been doing for so a long time. "The new bowlers are quite good and will learn the tricks in international cricket pretty fast."

Talking about Pollock, Ntini said he was a very good captain and has an excellent record to show. "Smith is lucky to have Pollock by his side at a time when he is starting off as the captain. Not that Smith is not capable, but Pollock's experience will be of immense help."

He, however, will not compare captains. "It is never easy to compare. Hansie Cronje was good at his job, but I have hardly played under him. Rather I have developed under Pollock." He feels reference to Cronje during the World Cup was unnecessary.

Ntini, who wanted to be a policeman but has no regrets about ending up being a cricketer, was disappointed with South Africa's World Cup failure. "We the players could not do our job well.

There is no point in blaming the captain now." In fact, he takes it as a personal failure. "The days were difficult after the exit, but I guess now we have got over it and can look forward to the future."

First Published: Apr 18, 2003 00:22 IST