Martin Crowe, one of New Zealand’s greatest cricketers of all-time, reckons his ‘head’ tells him South Africa will win the World Cup.
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo.com Crowe – who played 77 Tests and 143 ODIs for his country between 1982 and 1995 – felt there would be no upsets in the group stages before the competition hotted up. ‘The minnows are still way off the pace,’ he said.
Then he turned his thoughts to the Proteas.
‘The first of my gut feelings has to do with South Africa. They were dead unlucky in 1992 with crazy rain rules, and especially unlucky again in 1999. They had their chance to grab that tournament by knocking out Australia in Leeds in a Super Six match, but Herschelle Gibbs tried a circus act and “dropped the World Cup”.
‘Then they had another terrific chance to grab it again only days later, at Edgbaston, same opposition, only to feel it all evaporate in a hurry as they needed one run with four balls remaining. Allan Donald dropped his bat, was run out and that was that.
‘Four years later at home, they did the unthinkable, and not much has changed since. Yet now that AB de Villiers has become the world’s most outrageous strokemaker there is reason to believe again. He stands on a pedestal as a man who can change a game in the blink of an eye. Along with Brendon McCullum, De Villiers is timing his run immaculately. These two leaders are the men I would love to see at the toss in Melbourne come 29 March, if the draw will allow it.
‘South Africa also have Hashim Amla, a modern-day great player with a beautiful attitude to the game. He’s the sort of guy you want to see succeed, oozing class from beard to toe. Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and David Miller are outstanding lieutenants with the bat.
‘And who can go past the skill, experience and balance of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir? It’s an impressive line-up. The only question remaining is the actual execution of managing the pressure moments. I don’t see De Villiers gasping for air this time around, for he has shown often lately that he completes all transactions on the field. His new-found maturity will rub off, and that’s why I rate them as favourites to go to Melbourne.
‘At a rough guess, assuming that both hosts get to play at home no matter where they finish in pool play, the quarters may read: New Zealand to beat West Indies in Wellington, Australia to beat Pakistan in Melbourne, England to beat India in Adelaide, Sri Lanka to lose to South Africa in Sydney. Semis to be: New Zealand beating England in Auckland, Australia losing to South Africa in Sydney.
‘So I’m picking a new champion to be crowned. My heart says the Black Caps, my head suggests the Proteas,’ Crowe concluded.