Smith: We must handle pressure better

South Africa’s failure in pressure-cooker situation in World Cup is part of the cricketing lore. The top contenders lost three semifinals and a quarterfinal in five World Cup appearances since 1992

“That’s the nature of knockout tournaments, that’s what makes it exciting and that’s what makes it tough,” captain Graeme Smith said on Tuesday. “As an international sportsman, pressure is a part of your life. You learn to deal with pressure.”

According to Smith, team talks and some “really good bonding sessions” were an important part of the Proteas’ mental buildup. The team heads for the subcontinent carrying high expectations.

We had some good chats,” the out-going captain said.

“We’re as best prepared as we can be for this tournament. This team is in a good space. Exciting things are expected to come from this team.”

Prior to the side’s take-off for the sub-continent, later on Tuesday, Smith, who turned 30 last week, added he was looking forward to “leaving it all out there” at his final tournament as one-day captain.

Also tipped to step down at the end of the tournament, coach Corrie van Zyl said he hoped for a subdued buildup ahead of the Proteas’ first World Cup game against West Indies on February 24, but realized that was not going to happen.

South Africa President Jacob Zuma and the country’s world champion rugby team pledged their support to the cricketers, and some professional footballers were present at a Johannesburg hotel to send the team off.

“We hope to do the country proud. For a year we’ve been preparing for the West Indies. We think we have got a very good squad and a lot of options,” van Zyl said.

South Africa had fallen into the trap in previous years of being “too result-driven,” said Van Zyl, and his team preferred to focus on “one day at a time” rather than the quarterfinals or semifinals.

“We’ll just concentrate on what we’re doing right now,” Van Zyl said.

Smith added that thinking about the quarters or semis would be “getting ahead of ourselves.”

Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s only injury worry, injured a right side muscle in a Test against India at the beginning of the year and has not played since. However, reports say he will be fit in time for the mega-event.

South Africa play warm-up matches against Zimbabwe and defending champion Australia. Smith said the results will hold no significance..

“We’ll use the warm-up games to achieve our own goals,” Smith said. “We want to keep things simple. We know what we want to do over there and we just need to go and do it.”

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One Response to “Smith: We must handle pressure better”

  1. Arnold says:

    I would say that South Africa is the unluckiest team ever. They had a marvelous chance to reach the finals of the 2003 World Cup, when they needed to score 1 off 3 balls, but Lance Klusener threw it away. I feel bad for Smith and his team, sometimes!

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