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India start favourites: Pollock

- EXCLUSIVE
- TWO FORMER CAPTAINS SPEAK TO THE TELEGRAPH
Shaun Pollock

Dhaka: Shaun Pollock, a former captain of South Africa, spoke to The Telegraph at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon on Thursday morning.

Excerpts...

Q Were you expecting the semi-finals line-up to be the way it turned out?

A I was hoping South Africa wouldn’t miss out... I expected India and Sri Lanka to be there... As for the other team from the India group, I expected either Pakistan or Australia to make it. Having said that, I’m not surprised that the West Indies made the last-four.

What are your thoughts on the India-South Africa semi-final, on Friday?

India start favourites.

Why?

Because India have played all their matches in Dhaka, while South Africa have come from Chittagong, where the conditions were definitely different. Also, India won all four matches, so they’re the form team... That India played in the recent Asia Cup is also an advantage. They know the conditions very well.

Then, there’s the spin factor...

Yeah, India have all bases covered. They have a leggie (Amit Mishra), an offie (Ravichandran Ashwin) and a left-arm spinner (Ravindra Jadeja)... Plus, there are part-timers. India look to be in good space.

But could India have peaked already?

Difficult to say... T20 is all about how you play on the day.

South Africa had to fight their way in every match they won...

That may not have been a bad thing... They haven’t peaked and I’m hoping they do now. South Africa’s best match was no doubt the last one — when they beat England.

Would Faf du Plessis and the rest of the team be weighed down by South Africa’s record in World events?

The guys could talk about it, but they have nothing to lose. The pressure, I think, is off South Africa.

[South Africa have tripped thrice in World Cup semi-finals and lost in the 2009 World T20 semi-final as well.]

What makes you say that?

Because South Africa aren’t expected to defeat India... They won’t start the semi-final as favourites. If they get beaten, so be it.

Why is it that South Africa have never won either a World Cup or the World T20? Has it been a mental thing?

A combination of factors, I’d say... It could be something to do with the mind... But there have been times when we’ve run into good teams, who’ve played better cricket on the day in question. Let me add that if South Africa get into a winning position and still don’t cross the line, they’ll be very disappointed.

Who are the key men?

For India, Virat Kohli and the three spinners... Perhaps, even the captain (Mahendra Singh Dhoni)... For South Africa, I’d pick AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir.

Tahir’s been outstanding...

Absolutely. It’s after quite a while that we’ve got a spinner (leggie) as a wicket-taking option. If there’s turn, as is expected, then Tahir will have a big role.

Dhoni’s massively experienced as captain, whereas Faf is rather new to the job. Could that be a factor if it gets close?

Well, experience can’t be bought in the nearest supermarket... Experience indeed is invaluable... But Faf has AB (the ODI captain) in the team and I’m sure they’ll be having a chat.

What have been your impressions of Dhoni, the captain?

Dhoni’s won everything... The World Cup, the World T20, the Champions Trophy. He’s done it all and that says it all.

We’re into April now and the matches at the business end begin half-an-hour earlier. So, will dew be an issue?

Don’t think so.

Have you had a favourite T20 player?

This format is dominated by batsmen, they can make a much bigger impact... Bowlers can’t bowl more than four overs... I don’t have a favourite, no.

Finally... The one quality a player must have if he wants to make a mark in T20s...

Adaptability. It’s a quick game and you’ve got to quickly change gears when situations change. In this format, you can’t have a rigid game plan. That would be fatal.