South Africa`s immediate target is QFs, says Botha

Updated: Feb 22, 2011, 00:05 AM IST

New Delhi: South Africa were one of the favourites in the last two World Cups but in the ongoing edition, the hullabaloo surrounding the Proteas is less and it can work wonders for the team, whose immediate aim is to qualify for the quarter-finals, said off-spinner Johan Botha.

Terming hosts India and defending champions Australia as the favourites for the title, Botha said South Africa too has the potential to win the cup but they are in no mood to think about it right now.

"I think in 2003 and 2007 we were favourites. This time there are not lot of expectations from people (back home). But still within the team we believe we can go all the way in the tournament. So that`s nice. We need to get into the knock out
round and if we have a few good games we can end up with the trophy," Botha said after his side`s first practice session at the Services ground here.

"Lot of teams are favourites. India is there, Australia is there. Sri Lanka are a quality team. We can do our business. Our aim will be to get into the quarter-finals and from there have some good games and anything can happen," he added.

Just before the World Cup South Africa defeated India 3-2 in a five-match ODI rubber back home and Botha said it was a morale-boosting series win for the Proteas.

"We will take bit of a confidence from that series. We played against world class batsmen and spinners and it was a great preparation for the team. Personally, it was really good to play and see where my game was.”

"But we want to be bit more attacking and pick wickets (in the World Cup). In South Africa seamers take all the wickets and you (spinners) just control the game," said Botha, who is also the Twenty20 skipper of South Africa.

Botha said so far the team`s preparation for the cricketing extravaganza went off well but was expecting a low and slow wicket for their tournament opener against West Indies at the Feroze Shah Kotla here.

"We had a two-week break (after India series) and needed some good preparation. We have done that and the guys are keen to go out there and play," he said.

"We had a good week in Bangalore. Conditions were little bit different than here but today was a good outing for us. That wicket today kept a bit low, and it bit like that on February 24," said the right-hander, who is also a utility batsman down the order.

Asked about the type of wickets he was expecting throughout the tournament which is being co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, he said, "In South Africa obviously it turns a lot less, so it is hard to ball there.”

"But there will be bit more assistance here (for the spinners) and we can play more attacking role. In South Africa we try and keep the game tight and restrict other team. Here we have more chance to get wickets."

South Africa are always known to have a potent pace attack but for the World Cup they have three specialist spinners in Botha himself, left-armer Robin Peterson and
Pakistan-born leggie Imran Tahir.

"It is very exciting for the guys (to have three spinners in the team). Lot of them have not seen Imran (Tahir) bowl. He is a quality bowler. I am looking forward to front-line three spinners playing in some of the matches," Botha said.

He, however, refused to divulge whether South Africa will play all their three spinners in the World Cup.

"The wickets and against whom we are playing will determine. But the good thing for us is that we all can bowl in bowling power-play," Botha insisted.

Asked about former champions West Indies – South Africa`s first opponent in the tournament, Botha said, "We know they have some dangerous, quality players."

"If one comes off with a big score then immediately we will be under pressure. But we can do our business. It does not matter what we do first (bowling or batting). The guys are keen and raring to go."

In the cricketing circle, South Africa are considered "chokers" in big tournament but Botha begs to differ on the issue.

"I don`t think so. It is quite interesting to say that South Africa are the chokers but Australia won the last three (World Cups), so other teams have also not won it. I think it has been overused by now.”

"Australia dominated so far, they were the best team. Can`t just point at us. I know we lost in past situations but that could have happened to other teams. It happened with my domestic team back home," he viewed.

He also said that he was happy with the format of the ongoing World Cup compared to the previous edition in the West Indies.

"I think this is better format. Even if there are one or two slip ups, teams can get into the quarter-finals and the guys will be up for that," Botha said.

AB de Villiers is one of the finest fielders of South Africa team but Botha said he has been entrusted with the wicket-keeping duties to maintain the balance of the side.

"He (de Villiers) has done really well. He is world class batsman. Obviously he is a good fielder and I miss him in the field. But it is good for the balance of the team," he signed off.

PTI