Jonty Rhodes has had the disappointment of seeing South Africa miss out on World Cup glory four successive times despite being among the top contenders each time. He feels the current squad has no weaknesses heading into the 2011 World Cup.
Here, he answers questions from Yahoo! Cricket in an exclusive chat:
What will it take to finally get South Africa in the World Cup final?
One run more than the opponent (laughs). I wish I knew the answer to it. It's not rocket science. But we have been to World Cups previously believing that we can win the tournament. Almost always there is talk that South Africa cannot make it whether it is at a Champions Trophy or the ICC World Cup. In fact not many remember that we won the inaugural ICC Champions Trophy in 1998.
Since then it has been a dry period for us in ICC tournaments. But if they can make it this time it will be amazing. I truly believe this team can because they have some amazing youngsters like AB de Villiers, JP Duminy. They are skilful players. Graeme Smith is a great leader and plays from the front. But it is the younger guys who have played with freedom much more than the guys who have been to five World Cups. The younger players in the South African side play with less fear and that I think will make all the difference.
South Africa failed to close critical games at successive World Cups. Why has it happened so often to the one team that has always looked formidable heading into the tournament?
The fact that we have been to semifinals most of the times makes every one forget how strong we have been. In the knockout stage anything can happen. Like we saw in 1996. We had a very good first round, but in the quarterfinal Brian Lara made all the difference. If someone has a brilliant performance on that day, things can go against you as well.
In 1999 we played on a tough wicket not chasing one of the highest targets. Lance Klusener's run out came as a result of a mix-up. These things happen sometimes on that particular day. The fact that South Africa have made it to the semi-finals tells you how strong a side we have had. It is really about how on that day you play the key points well. One-day cricket is all about seizing the opportunity and about hoping that things fall for you. The critical decision goes in your favour. So it is not just about South Africa.
What are the main threats to this South African side heading into the World Cup?
I don't think this South Africa side has any weakness. They have good spinners which is very important for the subcontinent. Johan Botha has played really well. Robin Peterson has played for a long time and has experience. I think in the spin department they have enough ammunition. Then there is Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn. There are two of the better new ball combination right now. So there is no real weakness there. So any team looking to target a particular bowler in the South Africa side will find it difficult. Johan Botha has good figures in 50 over cricket. Fast bowlers take wicket with the new ball and come back well.
In the subcontinent you can have sides 200 for two quite often, so it is very important for sides to take wickets in that period. The batsmen in the South Africa side play spin well. I remember I was criticised for sweeping too much. But now with the IPL, the batsmen are confident of playing against spin. Kallis has had three great IPLs. AB has come along in the last year. Graeme is a powerful player. I am not saying that the side has no problems and they will just win the tournament. They have work to do. But the side is questioned only because of the track record of the previous teams. That is probably the only weakness I can think of. But if they were not good teams they would not be getting that far. From a skill point there is not one area that I can pinpoint that they lack.
You've worked closely with Indian cricketers in recent times. Whose fielding skills have impressed you the most?
There are guys like Virat Kohli who I have seen playing for RCB in IPL or for India in a few games. Suresh Raina, the other younger guys like Gambhir have got really good hands. Harbhajan stood out in my time with Mumbai Indians.
When Mohammed Kaif played for India I thought he was one fielder who was very dynamic. Harbhajan is the next best bloke. Sachin has got steady throw, good hands. In the current set up it is really difficult to point one really good fielder because there a lot of youngsters who are good. The key fact is in the past India had one or two good fielders and the rest were not good enough.
Now with the top five or six teams being evenly matched, you cannot hide players any more. If you miss out on a run out, have a fast bowler at third man who is slow, that could cost you the tournament. The days of three good fielders and the others being not so good is behind us. Indian team has done well in that department. I am not saying they have seven or eight outstanding fielders. But they have steady five or six fielders who have good skill level which can go to the next level.