World Cup 2007 February 16, 2007

Arthur backs questioned trio

Ken Borland

Mickey Arthur is adamant that Roger Telemachus has an important role to play at the World Cup © Getty Images
In many South African cricket followers' eyes, Loots Bosman, Roger Telemachus and Robin Peterson were the recipients of an all-expenses-paid jaunt to West Indies next month when they were named in South Africa's 15-man squad for the World Cup on Thursday.

Callers to radio stations and respondents to polls on internet websites have called into question their ability and some have suggested they are there just to fill a quota of seven players of colour in the squad.

It must sometimes bring a tear to the eye for the players concerned and it was heartening that coach Mickey Arthur and selection convenor Haroon Lorgat backed the trio and gave clear, sensible reasons for their inclusion when they spoke to the media on Thursday night.

All three have shown scratchy form of late, with Peterson and Bosman only appearing in the opening game of the series against Pakistan and Telemachus not playing at all.

But Arthur was adamant the selectors have given him "the best possible bowling combination" and stressed Peterson and Telemachus had important roles in terms of the variation they bring to the attack.

"If the pitch turns, then we are very confident Robin Peterson will do the job for us. He's our man as far as a spinner is concerned and he is a wholesale cricketer who gives us three disciplines in one," Arthur said.

"If the pitch is slow, then Roger can bring us variation. He bowls wicket-to-wicket in the middle overs, can reverse the ball and is very good at the death."

Lorgat added that Telemachus's particular role was to follow the new-ball bowlers, a job he is more suited to than the omitted Johan van der Wath.

Lorgat also explained Bosman's inclusion and Boeta Dippenaar's exclusion by saying South Africa would like quick starts in the World Cup.

"That decision was made around the game plan. We want to get off to a quick start in the powerplays, exactly the way Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers have responded at the top. Boeta is unlucky, but he had five innings at the Champions Trophy to cement his place," Lorgat said.

Arthur also defined the roles of those bowlers who will follow the brilliant new-ball pairing of Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini.

"Andre Nel's job is to strike behind Makhaya and Shaun, while Andrew Hall and Charl Langeveldt provide variation, reverse-swing and bowl at the death. Jacques Kallis is our fifth bowler and can swing it, Graeme Smith has been working hard on his off-spin and Justin Kemp has been working really hard on his cutters."

South Africa's squad certainly has a settled look about it with Smith himself, Mark Boucher, Gibbs, Hall, Kallis, Langeveldt, Ntini, Peterson and Pollock all having appeared in previous World Cups. Boucher and Gibbs will be playing in their third World Cups, while Kallis and Pollock were members of the 1996, 1999 and 2003 South African teams.

South Africa have had a harsh time of it in recent World Cups (actually in all of them, bar 1996), but Smith believes his team ought to make an impression in the West Indies.

"This team has come a long way since 2003, it is much calmer and more confident. Everyone fits in really well, it is a happy team. Now we just need to adapt to conditions and deal with the pressures in the Caribbean," he said.

Cricket South Africa president Ray Mali certainly backed his skipper.

"This squad has set the world alight for the last two seasons by playing positive, brave cricket. I am confident they will mount a formidable challenge at the World Cup," Mali said.

Now it just remains to be seen whether the composition of that squad will be greeted with similar positivity in the Republic.

Ken Borland works for the MWP news agency in South Africa