`We are a pretty settled one-day team'

Graeme Smith and his men are confident of overcoming the demons created by South African sides of the past. "We know what mistakes were made and we won't make them again," the skipper says in a chat with Brenden Nel.

Graeme Smith must exorcise the ghosts of the past if South Africa is to avoid repeating the same mistakes and win its first World Cup. The Proteas captain will lead a team into battle which is historic in its own right by being the most representative of the country's population ever to tour.

The new-look squad will have to overcome the demons created by South African sides of the past in a tournament where they have so often shown so much promise, only to disappoint when it matters most. The current team has been running like clockwork ever since breaking the then world record one-day international total in a magnificent game against Australia at the Wanderers last year.

In recent World Cups, however, things have been very different, with the Proteas beaten by rain in 1992, when a reworked target required them to get 22 runs from one ball in their semifinal against England. In 1996, South Africa appeared to be the team to beat, only to lose to the West Indies in the quarterfinals despite dominating early on.

The famous Herschelle Gibbs' dropped catch in the 1999 semifinal and the desperate run-out of Allan Donald were arguably the most galling of these mishaps, handing, as they did, Australia a place in the final.

South Africa then hosted the 2003 tournament but saw its hopes of a home triumph washed away with a botched Duckworth-Lewis calculation against Sri Lanka.

Smith and Co. are determined to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors. The coaching team has already looked for help from former coaches like Graham Ford and Eric Simons and Smith believes he can use past failures to drive his players forward.

"Those things that went wrong in the past will be used to motivate us in the Caribbean," he said. "We know what mistakes were made and we won't make them again. At the moment, we've been a pretty settled one-day team, with two years of good results around the world, and we're confident we can shake off the problems we've had in previous World Cups. The team has been running like a machine and this squad includes players of character."

Smith believes the hard work of the last year has paid off and — even though he himself went through a bad patch of form — some sterling work with former Proteas opening batsman Jimmy Cook has paid dividends, as witnessed in the recent Test and one-day series against Pakistan.

The fruits of Cook's advice were almost immediately borne as Smith battled back with a pair of fifties that clinched the Test series against India and helped restore some batting confidence to his game.

"I needed some time for myself and my own game," he said of his personal journey back to form.

"I wanted to get away. I worked on a few technical things; things you don't feel comfortable with in the middle and end up searching. So I organised a few sessions in the middle and Jimmy helped me in it."

South Africa will be desperately hoping Smith maintains that form going into the World Cup. And Smith himself will be looking over his shoulder. There have been enough disasters in past tournaments, which have ended careers of his predecessors, to remind him of the consequences of another failure.

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