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Smith: Delhi Pitch Provides 'Unknown Factor'

New Delhi, Feb 23:  The pitch at New Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla stadium provides "an unknown factor" for both teams in Thursday's World Cup match between South Africa and West Indies, Proteas captain Graeme Smith
PTI February 23, 2011 17:23 IST
PTI
New Delhi, Feb 23:  The pitch at New Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla stadium provides "an unknown factor" for both teams in Thursday's World Cup match between South Africa and West Indies, Proteas captain Graeme Smith said on Wednesday.

The South Africans "don't really know what to expect," he said.

But, whatever doubts there are over the new surface, Smith hopes what he calls South Africa's best-ever spin lineup in the subcontinent will help one of the pre-tournament favorites to a winning start in Group B.

Smith told reporters at the stadium a day ahead of both teams' opener that he was aware of the problems at the Feroz Shah Kotla. The ground has not hosted an international match since a one-day game between India and Sri Lanka in late 2009 was abandoned because of an unplayable pitch.

The surface has since been re-laid and has staged a handful of local games. However, the Proteas skipper felt that although venue staff had put in "a lot of work" on the surface, there was still some uncertainty over how the pitch would play.

"I think it is obvious we are all aware of what has happened in Delhi," said Smith, who spent some time at South Africa's training session examining the Kotla surface. "From our perspective and from the West Indies' perspective it's an unknown factor.

"I think it has been relaid and a few games have been played on it but still it's an unknown factor for all of us."

Smith added the pitch would make team selection tricky for the Proteas, who have three frontline spinners and leading pace bowlers Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

"We don't really know what to expect," he said. "We have just to pick the side we think gives us the right balance and we feel that can benefit us tomorrow against the West Indies."

Still without a World Cup title and about to start its sixth tournament, South Africa would be boosted this year by unusually strong spinning options, Smith said.

The Proteas, which have relied heavily on pace bowling in previous tournaments, have off-spinner Johan Botha, legspinner Imran Tahir and left-armer Robin Peterson in their squad, as well as part-time spinners JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis.

"It's probably the best spin attack we've ever had coming into the subcontinent. It probably has the best variety we've had, we have got a lot of options," Smith said.

"We have three frontline spinners and a lot of batters who can bowl spin ... we have covered our bases for pretty much any conditions we get."

Smith said his team was now "running out of answers" to questions over their temperament -- and tendency to 'choke' at World Cups.

"It's up to us to perform well at the tournament, it's as simple as that," Smith replied to the 'choke' question that has now been asked by reporters at every one of the team's World Cup news conferences.

"Every time we walk into a press conference it's the question we expect to get," he said. "We've made a few semifinals, let's hope we can go a couple of steps further. There's no doubt in my mind we have got the players, and if the opportunity arises they will take it."

But South Africa has famously lost three semifinals at the top limited overs event and also failed at the quarterfinal stage in 1996 after a surprise loss to the West Indies -- who have a history of upsetting South Africa at big tournaments.

"They have matchwinners and that's what makes them dangerous in a one-off game," Smith said. "They have guys who on their day can really punish you and really take the game away from you.

"That's why in cup competitions they are a very dangerous outfit to come up against." AP