In the first of six columns with South African cricketers from each World Cup in which the country has competed, we talk exclusively with Meyrick Pringle, who was a major player in the 1992 tournament.
Pringle remembers the event, which fostered a fine relationship between Mike Procter, Allan Donald, Kepler Wessels and the rest. A match-winning four-for against the West Indies was a highlight, while Omar Henry’s non-selection and the infamous ’22 runs off one ball’ semi-final very disappointing.
As told to Jonhenry Wilson
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.
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 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 Brian 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. Sometimes it was a bit of a battle with my new-ball partner Donald – he was a bang bowler and I was a swing bowler. So we’d jokingly jostle for who would bowl with and into the wind. We would always work it out, though. He was the senior bowler – and had played more first-class games at the time than I had.
Mike got on with everyone. He was a nice guy – and full of jokes in the dressing room. It was very much a family environment, we pulled each other together. 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.
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. But knowing Kepler and the bowling side we had, Kepler was purely about a full-seam attack. We had a good attack. The back-up bowlers were not bad at all. Omar did very well on the domestic scene at the time, but the World Cup was a different ball game.
It was nice to have gone as far as the semi-finals. A lot of people didn’t think we’d go that far. We surprised a lot of people around the world. Playing against Allan Lamb, who was a good friend, and Ian Botham and those sort of guys, was a treat. Getting Botham and Neil Fairbrother out in the semi-final against England was a cherry on the top, having watched these top guys over the years.
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 in Melbourne. 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 beaten them again in the tournament proper.