ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
ICC World Cup 2011
World Cup could be a three-way race - Duncan Fletcher
Firdose Moonda in Johannesburg
January 14, 2011
Next month's World Cup could end up being a three-way race between the top teams in Test cricket, Duncan Fletcher, the former England coach and currently South Africa's batting consultant, has said. "You've got three sides on a par: India South Africa and England, all with different strengths and weaknesses," Fletcher said in Johannesburg on Friday.
Fletcher claimed South Africa, who have never won a World Cup, are going to be a "huge threat" in the subcontinent. "I believe South Africa match everyone as far as one-day cricket is concerned." He indicated that their stiffest challenge will come from India, who will be under "enormous pressure" because they are playing at home and England, given their recent form. "England has a good athletic side in the one-day game. The big difference, and you can see it, is the confidence having gone out to beat Australia."
While Fletcher singled out those three teams as the top dogs, he also felt this World Cup will be one of the most hotly contested in years, because of the more level-playing field. "It's an open World Cup for a change. There are no firm favourites. You can't rule out Sri Lanka. Australia, although they have taken a huge dip, I don't know where they are at the moment and Pakistan, you can't write them off on those wickets."
The conditions in the subcontinent are expected to be a major factor in the tournament and Fletcher had two significant pieces of advice for all the teams. "Spinners are going to be crucial," he said, "Secondly, you need fit cricketers, because it's going to be hot there and the players have to adapt to those kinds of wickets and get their techniques right and how to play on those wickets."
Both those warnings will need to be taken seriously by South Africa, who traditionally only use one spinner and came under fire for several senior players suffering from cramp in the 2007 tournament in the Caribbean. That senior-player contingent which consisted of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Justin Kemp, now only two survivors and the dynamics of the South African team have changed since then, so fitness should not be an issue, whereas the role of the spinner might be.
Johan Botha shoulders most of the slow-bowling responsibility, with JP Duminy's role increasing. The South African selectors have included Pakistan-born legspinner Imran Tahir in the squad for the current series ODI against India, but he did not play in the first match in Durban and looks unlikely to make an appearance in the second in Johannesburg. The pitches in South Africa favour their four-seamer, one spinner, attack and without testing Tahir here, it's difficult to see how he will fit into the World Cup plans.
For Fletcher, the big question that hung over South Africa was how their bowlers will adjust to pitches that are significantly different to the quick, bouncy strips they are playing the current series on and are used to. He didn't think South Africa were easily fooled into believing they will be gifted surfaces like the one they had in Durban on Wednesday, where they bowled India out for 154, but he was concerned about the short time-frame they will have to acclimatise to vastly different conditions. "When they go to India those wickets may be a bit slower and a bit flatter, but they just have to get used to it. They have to adapt a bit quicker," he said.
South Africa played ODI cricket in India last year as well as a series in similar conditions in the UAE against Pakistan. Fletcher said the planning has been in place for a while for this World Cup, but the execution will still be important. "They've [youngsters] been across to Sri Lanka on a couple of A tours so they planned well in that situation. But there's still a huge jump up from that level to international level."
Fletcher believed South Africa had the ability to learn quickly and with the number of young players in the set up, and the guidance they will be provided with, they will have the right mindset to challenge for the title. "With fresh young minds coming through and wanting ideas you just have to make sure you go through their game mentally rather than technically. The key to it is to make them believe that ability they have is good enough and it has got them to this level. That's why they have been picked."
Fletcher will travel with the South African team for the remainder of the ODI series against India and through the warm-up stages of the World Cup. He has also not ruled out coaching them on a full-time basis in future. With Corrie van Zyl stepping down after the World Cup, there is every possibility of Fletcher stepping in. "I'm not going to say I like a job, I'm not going to say I don't like a job at the moment. I've been very fortunate with the work I'm doing with South Africa."
Cricket South Africa extended the deadline for applications for the head coach to February 18, so Fletcher still has some time to consider if he will throw his name into the hat.
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