Weather is bigger threat to England than Namibia
Wednesday 19 February 2003
There are several obstacles which prevent the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, from making his team into world champions. Injury, too much cricket, poor facilities and even the weather – which was last night threatening England's chances of qualifying for the next stages of the World Cup – are the usual reasons given for England's lack of success.
For Namibia, England's opponents here today, and their coach, Dougie Brown, the former England all-rounder, such problems would seem trivial. For them, even setting the bowling machine up at practice can be a life-threatening experience. During one training session in Windhoeck, Brown went to get the bowling machine out of its shed only to see a black mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the world, lying between him and the equipment.
"It was a little one, only two or three feet long," Brown said. "But I was told they are the most venomous. I didn't know what to do so I got one of the players to get rid of it." Coming from Stirling in Scotland and having played most of his cricket at Edgbaston, such delegation is understandable.
Brown, who was in the shake-up for the 1999 World Cup, still plays for Warwickshire and will have mixed emotions going into the game. He is a team-mate of Nick Knight and Ashley Giles – who will not play today because of tonsillitis – but is keen for his young side to make an impact.
"I have a foot in both camps," Brown said. "I am desperately keen for England to do well but I also want my side to put in a good performance. For us to win it will require a massive team effort and the full Test side to have either an off day or treat us with disrespect.
"We do not have the individuals who are going to score big hundreds or take six or seven wickets in the game, so we need a major contribution from everybody. We have a reasonable side but are lacking in experience. I don't think England will have too much to worry about, but we have all seen that upsets in big competitions do occur."
Namibia reached the World Cup by finishing as runners-up in the 2001 ICC Trophy. To get to the final they won 10 consecutive qualifying matches before losing to the Netherlands on the last ball of the game. With only five clubs and 300 club cricketers to pick from the East Africans have no professionals within their ranks. Their team contains police inspectors, IT consultants, electricians and doctors each of whom has had to take unpaid leave to play in the tournament.
England's highly paid professionals put the finishing touches to their preparations in a three-hour training session at St George's Park yesterday morning. With spirits lifted following their comfortable six-wicket win over the Netherlands on Sunday, Fletcher will be ensuring complacency does not creep into a side which is expected to be unchanged.
Having captained the Zimbabwe team who caused the odd shock, including a memorable win over Australia in the 1983 World Cup, Fletcher knows how dangerous an underdog can be. "We have seen sides like this cause an upset every now and again," he said. "We have got to make sure it does not happen tomorrow. The guys are pretty positive in the way they are playing and there is a really good vibe about the team."
A bigger worry for England could be the weather after storms came into the Port Elizabeth area last night. England already need to win three of their four matches to qualify for the next round and rain today could mean they have to win three in a row against Pakistan, India and Australia. This will be a tough ask.
* The England coach, Duncan Fletcher, yesterday encouraged Nasser Hussain to continue as England captain at the conclusion of the World Cup. Fletcher, who has worked closely with Hussain since October 1999, stressed that he would not discuss the matter with Hussain until after the tournament so it does not deflect the focus of the squad. Doubts over Hussain's future were raised at the weekend when he threatened to resign because of disillusionment with the cricket authorities.
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