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SA pin hopes on new captain

South Africa's coach Eric Simons said on Saturday he had full confidence in the abilities of new captain Graeme Smith.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2003 16:10 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

South Africa's coach Eric Simons said Saturday he had full confidence in the abilities of new captain Graeme Smith and hoped his team would once again be a force to reckon with.

"Smith is one of those few cricketers who have the real feel for the game," said Simons. "He is a tactical person and his leadership abilities have been tested for South Africa A and Western Province."

Smith will become the second-youngest captain in one-day history when he leads his team Sunday against India in a league match in a three-nation tournament here.

Smith, who has played just eight Tests and 22 one-dayers, has been entrusted with the task of reviving the fortunes of a team that could not make it beyond the preliminary league of the World Cup.

Batsmen Gary Kirsten and Jonty Rhodes as well as paceman Allan Donald have retired and the team is also without the experience of Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener.

Kallis, who is not yet here because of an illness in the family, is likely to join the team during the course of the tournament or for the two Tests to follow against Bangladesh.

Simons cautioned that Smith will take time to adjust to his new role.

"Smith will adjust at the helm and also bring out the best in his players, but it may take time. His is not going to be an easy job but we have full confidence in him," said Simons.

Smith will be 22 years and 71 days old when he leads his young side against a new-look Indian team, breaking the previous South African record of 24 years and 105 days held by the late Hansie Cronje.

The youngest captain of a one-day international side is Pakistani paceman Waqar Younis, who was 21 years and 354 days when he led his team against the West Indies at Sharjah in 1993-94.

India are without star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, frontline pacemen Javagal Srinath and Ashish Nehra, and also experienced leg-spinner Anil Kumble.

Simons said Smith would have to be on his toes as India, who finished runners-up to Australia in the World Cup, are always a dangerous side.

"The pressure may not be much because this is a low-profile tournament. But we are here to win and India can never be taken lightly, with or without Tendulkar," he said.

The coach said it was now up to Smith to justify the trust in him and for the younger players to make the most of their opportunities.

"Guys like Andrew Hall and Charl Willoughby have a good chance of showing their talent here," said Simons, adding it was time for the team to look ahead after their World Cup debacle.

"In the World Cup, the pressure got on to us. Our top players, including Kallis, did not strike. It was a major disappointment as hosts," said Simons.

South Africa play their first match after the World Cup on Sunday while India have already begun with an impressive 199-run drubbing of hosts Bangladesh in the opening match on Friday.

The tournament is being played on a double-league format with the top two teams clashing in the final on April 20.

South Africa then play the first of two Tests starting here on April 24. The second Test will be held at the eastern port city of Chittagong from May 1.

ht epaper

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