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Cronje, Woolmer confident on eve of Titan Cup final

4 November 1996

South Africa's spearhead, Fanie De Villiers, was on Monday declared fit to take part in the final of the Titan Cup triangular series, against India at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday November 6.

De Villiers, who has in this tournament managed to shackle even the likes of Mark Waugh and Sachin Tendulkar and who, with India's Venkatesh Prasad, probably posseses the best disguised slower ball in the game today, had missed the last league match against australia due to a hamstring injury.

While De Villiers is a sure bet for the starting lineup on Wednesday, coach Bob Woolmer was unsure whom he will replace in the starting line-up. The standard practise, thus far, has been for the side to leave out opener Andrew hudson whenever another player is considered more valuable to the side in a particular game.

And as of now, there seems little doubt that this player is Lance Klusener.

Skipper Hansie Cronje, on arrival in Bombay on Monday morning, sang Klusener's praises. Though the youngster had been expensive with the ball against Australia in the Proteas' last league fixture, his superb 88 undefeated runs with the bat has visibly impressed his captain.

Indications, thus, are that Klusener will open, with the bat if not the ball, on Wednesday while South Africa reverts to its tested De Villiers-Brian McMillan lineup to share the new ball.

Asked whether playing the final against India before a 50,000 strong crowd at the Wankhede will put pressure on the visitors, Cronje said he planned to approach the game in the same manner as he had started in the opening match.

The S'African skipper, in fact, feels so confident about his side that he said he wasn't looking at making any changes for the upcoming Test series against India.

Earlier, the South African camp had indicated that after the Titan Cup, the selectors might look at changes in lineup for the Tests, with the likes of ace pace bowler Shaun Pollock, fellow bowler Craig Mathews and freak spinner Paul Adams earning places in the side following their recovery from injuries.

Now, however, Cronje feels that he would like to go with a team that has successfully adapted to Indian conditions, rather than bring in a new player who might take time to adapt.

``We're looking forward to the three Tests against India,'' Cronje said. Asked whether playing against India on spin-friendly tracks was not a daunting prospect, Cronje pointed out that left arm spinner Nicky Boje and off spinner Pat Symcox have been bowling very well, and that the two together had made South Africa a ``complete team'' for Tests. ``Symcox and Boje have actually got more turn than the Indian spinners,'' the S'African captain pointed out, ``and so there is no real need to fly out Paul Adams.''

Coach Bob Woolmer for his part indicated that he expected the Titan Cup final against South Africa to be a tough game. ``The one day tournament is like a lottery,'' Woolmer said. ``In the World Cup, South Africa was the best prepared side, but one bad day in the field and we lost to the West Indies in the quarterfinal. India showed a very cool head and steely nerves in Mohali against Australia, their confidence should be very high now and they will be a hard side to beat.

``India's entry into the final adds more spice to it,'' Woolmer added with a smile.

Asked the secret of South Africa's amazing performance on subcontinental wickets, Woolmer, who had taken over as national coach after Mike Procter had been dismissed, said that in 1994, when the team played a triangular series in Pakistan, it had lost all its games. ``That made us sit back and think about playing in the sub-continent, and to bring in methods aimed at exploiting such conditions,'' the ace coach said.

Meanwhile, after a strenuous workout in the morning, the South African team went back to Hotel Taj for a shower, change, lunch and then trooped out again, for a sight-seeing-cum-shopping trip around town.

How do you find this India tour thus far?, Cronje was asked.

``Magnificient!'' was the instant response.

Typical Cronje - suave and cultured off the field, ruthless on it.

Source: Rediff On The NeT
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:16