Johannesburg: West Indies skipper Carl Hooper said on Thursday the pressure will be on hosts South Africa in the opening game of the World Cup next month but added his team did not expect an easy ride. "I do believe the pressure will be on South Africa, because they are playing at home and everyone in South Africa will be expecting them to win," he told reporters on arrival at Johannesburg International Airport.
The veteran right-handed batsmen said he believed there was no longer a big gap between his team and the South Africans, ahead of their opening clash at Newlands in Cape Town on February 9. "We should have beaten them in the ICC tournament in Sharjah. They needed 13 off the last over and we let them get away with it," the SAPA news agency quoted him as saying. "We had a drubbing when we toured South Africa but when they came to the Caribbean in 2001 it was a much closer contest.
We have been through a process of rebuilding the team, and I think West Indies cricket turned around after the tour of South Africa," a confident-sounding Hooper said. "We have just had a very good Test series in India, and many of the younger players did very well. I expect them to do even better over the next six to eight weeks of the tournament." Asked whether he thought the West Indies could win the World Cup, Hooper's response was emphatic, "Absolutely. If we didn't think we could go all the way, we wouldn't be here."
Hooper conceded the West Indies would miss middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels, who was forced to pull out of the World Cup on Sunday because of a knee injury. "But Brian Lara is fully fit and raring to go," Hooper added. The West Indies need to acclimatise to South African conditions first after having played in the sub- continent. The team will be based in the central city of Bloemfontein.