Former Proteas fast bowler Meyrick Pringle looks back at Kepler Wessels’ style of leadership, a tough 1992 tour for spinner Omar Henry and more, writes JONHENRY WILSON.
The end of political and sporting sanctions afforded South Africa a maiden World Cup in Australasia, which yielded famous victories over the co-hosts and the West Indies – and led to eventual semi-final disappointment against England.
Pringle was impressive against the West Indians, removing the key quartet of Brian Lara, Richie Richardson, Carl Hooper and Keith Arthurton en route to a telling four-wicket haul – and Man of the Match award.
‘The whole thing was rushed at the beginning. No-one knew whether we were going to the tournament or staying at home. There was a lot of stuff up in the air. Eventually it was approved, the side was selected, we got together and off we went. It was very emotional and exciting to be the first South African team to go to a World Cup. To represent the country after so many years of isolation and political sanctions. It was brilliant to be a part of that comeback,’ Pringle told SA Cricket magazine.
‘The South African side was a “never say die” side. The chips were down after we beat Australia in Sydney – and then lost to New Zealand in New Zealand and Sri Lanka in New Zealand. The next game was against the West Indies, and to stand any chance of going further in the World Cup we had to win that match in Christchurch, and the next one against India in Adelaide.
‘I was left out after the first match, after not bowling well, and went for 50-odd runs. In those days, 50 runs was a lot. Nowadays, going for 50 happens all the time. Tertius Bosch, who had replaced me, didn’t bowl well – and I was then brought back for the Windies game. Everything clicked, it was a beautiful day, it was overcast – and myself and Allan Donald picked the right ball to bowl with.
‘It all worked. The ball was put in the right place, although I was a bit nervous after my first over after Lara had hit me for two fours, so I had already gone for eight, and was wondering what was going to happen next – maybe I would be dropped again. But after that, it all clicked – and the figures came through accordingly.
‘You see different types of people in team sport. There were those who were wilder than others, but in the end we all got on very well. With Kepler, we knew when to tickle him and when not to tickle him. We knew what buttons to push at the right time, or not at all. It was a fantastic tour overall, personnel-wise.’
While other spinners such as Pakistan’s Mushtaq Ahmed, New Zealand’s Deepak Patel and England’s Richard Illingworth enjoyed relative success at the 1992 World Cup, opportunity was limited for Henry in a squad that was aided by part-time spinner Peter Kirsten.
‘I felt sorry for Omar, who only played one World Cup game. Generally spinners were not seen as a threat to any side within South African cricket, because that is how we were brought up on South African wickets. He might have got a game or two in, say, in Sri Lanka – but not in Australia and New Zealand,’ added Pringle.
The Proteas failed to advance to the final after rain affected the semi-final – and an antiquated calculation deemed 22 runs were required from the final delivery. England won that match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but later failed against eventual champions Pakistan in Melbourne.
‘It was a phenomenal day and tour for us, but it was sad to go out of the tournament the way we did. I don’t think Graeme Hick and Graham Gooch, who had South African contacts at the time, would have allowed us to win – and go through to the final against Pakistan. I can guarantee, had we gone through to the final, we would have beaten Pakistan. We had beaten them in the warm-up game and then beat them again in the tournament proper,’ concluded Pringle.
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