JOHANNESBURG, May 1 – There’s no secret to performing in the World Cup, according to former swing bowler Richard Snell, other than getting your proven match-winners to fire and making sure you’re in the last four come the business end of the competition.
“The trick is to be in the top four,” says Snell, part of Kepler Wessels’ team in South Africa’s inaugural World Cup in 1992. “In our tournament, Pakistan only just squeaked in [to the semi-finals] and they ended up winning it.
“You definitely need your key performers to step up after that.”
As far as “key performers” are concerned, Snell’s a huge fan of Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada, the two players he thinks have the most obvious match-winning pedigree in the Proteas squad.
He does, however, add that the match-winners must be on song at the same time if they’re to give their team the best. “I think Rabada’s sensational,” says Snell. “He’s quick, he has the skills – he’s a top-quality bowler.”
Snell believes the South African attack is “extremely well-balanced” and that they’ve come a long way under coach Ottis Gibson’s tutelage. “They’ve developed under Ottis,” says Snell.
“There have been some selections out of the blue, but they complement each other really well. I like the fact that we’ve got two wrist-spinners in the mix and just as long as we can remain injury-free – because that can influence momentum – I think we’re in a really good space.”
As far as pacing themselves through the tournament, Snell believes it’s virtually impossible.
“When you are in it, it’s very difficult to pace yourself,” he says. “Nowadays the guys are more strategic, things are more planned and comprehensive, but I think it’s very difficult to deal with all the variables across a tournament.”
South Africa started with a bang in 1992, beating Australia by nine-wickets in a carnival atmosphere at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Wessels was smart in getting former Wallabies coach, Alan Jones, to address the South Africans before the game and Snell remembers Jones’ talk as being hugely motivational.
“He was just able to get us to play above ourselves – we played an unbelievable game against Australia,” he says.
Snell isn’t certain, but he thinks he was fielding at fine-leg when Geoff Marsh feathered a catch to Dave Richardson off Allan Donald’s first ball of the match – a decision that wasn’t given at the time by umpire Brian Aldridge.
“I couldn’t hear anything because of the noise but there was definitely a deflection, that I was pretty sure about,” says Snell. “It was very obvious.”
South Africa went on to bowl the Australians out for 170 before Wessels, Andrew Hudson and Peter Kirsten knocked off the runs, the tears flowing afterwards as minister of sport-elect, Steve Tshwete, and Ali Bacher entering the South Africans’ dressing-room to offer their congratulations.
“New Zealand [SA’s next assignment] was a completely different proposition,” remembers Snell.
“We played the Kiwis on a rugby field. I remember going for a six over backwards-point off a thick outside edge! It was pretty different in New Zealand to what we’d been exposed to in Australia.”
After the high emotion of Sydney, the South Africans came down to earth with a thud by losing their next two matches – against co-hosts New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Then followed a morale-boosting win against the West Indies and a priceless win in an abbreviated 30-over game against India before the fateful semifinal against England.
As far as this time around is concerned, Snell says he’s “very excited”. He’ll be watching from afar but he’ll be watching very carefully indeed. “Pressure will make or break this team,” he says.
“We’ll need the key performers to deliver on the day. If that can happen we’ll be in with a chance because I think we’ve chosen a really well-balanced and interesting squad with the two wrist-spinners.”
– African News Agency (ANA)