Graeme Smith and a dominant top six crushed the West Indies
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Graeme Smith attributed his side's crushing 3-0 series victory to the big strides that they had made in the batting department. South Africa had disappointed with the bat on the tour of Pakistan, and Smith said that plenty of hard work and preparation were responsible for the turnaround. "We have had batting meetings, camps, talks on the mental aspects and have set ourselves some goals," he said. "The home conditions played a part and the pitches were also good but you still have to knuckle down. Our top six did dominate during the series, and even though some people have said that they did not bowl well, I think it is the pressure that the top six put them under."
Smith added that the new culture within the team forbade any sort of complacency. "We have developed a great culture in the squad where we want to achieve more now and where the batsmen are not satisfied with just scoring hundreds, or just one hundred in the series. It is very important that we take that culture and form into the one-day series."
He was also unstinting in his praise of the team's fast bowlers. "The bowlers have been fantastic. Makhaya [Ntini] took 29, Andre [Nel] took 22 and Shaun [Pollock] 16 wickets. There has been a good balance in the pitches. The way they stuck to their guns was excellent," he said. "At times it was difficult bowling to some of their players. West Indies needs to take credit for the way they played the game. They played it hard, giving their all - producing a lot of good cricket."
Though the 3-0 scoreline suggested a huge gulf between the sides, Smith refused to accept that West Indies were now one of the world's poorer sides. "You can not write them off," he said. "They are also a developing team and I definitely don't see them as the eighth ranked team in the world, and most of the team doesn't either. We have and will have the utmost respect for them as cricketers. Only recently, during the World Cup, they beat us. Those memories are still in the back of our minds, so you can never write them off."
Smith went on to say that in Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, West Indies had two players with limitless potential. "Gayle is a difficult guy to bowl to when he plays like he did. He will play and miss and then bang, three or four will go past the field. I think Sarwan had a good series and will be a great cricketer."
He said that sheer commitment had been one of the major factors behind the team's success. "You go back to the hotel after a day's play and you will find six or seven guys in the gym. While we are batting, you will find some of the bowlers in the nets working on whatever they think is a problem."
Smith also welcomed Lance Klusener's recall to the one-day side, though he sounded a note of caution with regard to discipline. "He has come a long way since the World Cup and I have spoken to him on the phone. He has the opportunity to fit back into the team. He has the ability and has to, as an all-rounder, bat and bowl 10 overs. He has to adapt to some structures and cultures that are in the team and if, as I said before, you miss the bus you stay behind. It is in his hands."
He added that it was the close-knit nature of the squad that had contributed to the series victory against West Indies. "As a captain I owe a lot to this team: The guys who performed with the bat, the guys who perform with the ball, the senior group who you can chat to. Being captain of the team is not easy but harnessing all those around you helps bring out the best in the team."