The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup is currently ongoing in Australia and New Zealand, with the best cricket-playing nations in the world battling it out to be crowned champions for the next four years.
One of the favourites at the tournament are the Proteas of South Africa, and they have been displaying the kind of form which gives credence to predictions that they will go far in the tournament and remove their unfortunate tag as World Cup ‘chokers’.
South Africa’s run in the tournament thus far has seen three victories over Zimbabwe, West Indies and Ireland, while they stumbled to defeat against a strong and determined India side. The Proteas next play Pakistan on March 7 before ending the Pool B fixtures with a match against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) five days later.
To get an idea of what the mood is in the camp, and how confident the South Africans are feeling at this stage of the competition, AFKSports spoke to Proteas Assistant coach, Adrian Birrell.
Birrell: There is an air of confidence around the camp. We have played according to a plan and we have delivered on that plan, which gives us a lot of confidence, particularly with our batting. In this last game against Ireland our bowlers stepped up and came with intensity, they delivered and executed their skills on the night.
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Birrell: There is massive expectation on us to win this World Cup. We obviously feel the pressure but we try and stick to what we need to do in the immediate future. We need to make sure that we are prepared for the next match and to not look too far ahead. It is a long tournament and sometimes you can get distracted by looking at the bigger picture, which is obviously winning the cup.
Birrell: All the full member teams will be tough to compete against, especially in the quarter-finals where the playing field is even. Australia and New Zealand are the standout favourites as the home teams, and have both shown some good form during the group matches. We respect every team that we play against, you can’t take any team lightly during a World Cup.
Birrell: Their batting looked strong against us in that first match. I was confident that they would chase down the total against Pakistan a few days ago, they were looking good at one stage but seemed to get themselves out. They are going to have a big match against Ireland in the Group matches and that will big for them. Hopefully they do well and perform to the level that they can perform, they are a good side, they have good players.
Birrell: The fans have been great. We seemed to have a lot of support in Sydney against the West Indies, but the Irish out-supported us out the other night. All in all wherever we have gone we have seen the flags and we have seen people dressed in their South African colours. It’s been nice to see that there is support even in a hostile Australia. The ProteaFire campaign has had a big impact and we find that a lot of people view our team in a positive way.
Birrell: The UAE seem to be competing. They nearly beat Ireland and when I used to be the Ireland coach we played against them, I remember some of their batsmen being quite good. Their bowling might be on the weak side but there have been able to compete in some matches.
Birrell: He leads from the front and all the players in the squad follow him. He is brave in his decision-making and also how he plays, he has everyone’s support. I think there is a good nucleus of leadership with Hashim (Amla) and Faf (Du Plessis) the three captains work very well together. Even though AB is captain he is well supported by the other two lieutenants.
Birrell: It would be the best thing that could happen to our country in a long time. We have seen how sport has the power to unite our country and I think winning this World Cup will go a long way in galavanising our nation.