South Africa and West Indies are seeking to shed the weight of past foibles and forge new ground in this World Cup. For days now, both camps have been kept busy denying the pressure of expectation. For
They seem aware that unless they can win a title now, that tag will be an uncomfortable part of even future South African lineups. For the West Indies, a motley crew led by a young skipper, it is all about breaking free from unjustified comparisons with the great teams of the past.
Their path to redemption begins with the first encounter at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Thursday, on a new surface which hasn't really been tested and might bring all their pluck and application into play. The Kotla too is looking to break free from past imperfections and ensure an even playing field which will restore the ground's dimmed reputation.
Although South Africa go in as favourites and are a more complete and dynamic line-up on paper, the West Indies have, time and again, proven a stumbling block for them in World Cups and other ICC events. Last time around in the subcontinent back in 1996, a sublime Lara and put paid to their campaign in the quarters. At home in 2003, a three-run loss to Carl Hooper's men in the group stage again raised questions about lack of steel.
In that other major event, the Champions Trophy, the Windies have had the last laugh twice. When it hasn't been Australia (2007 World Cup semis and in 1999) or India (2007 World T20) or bizarre rain rules, the West Indies have been SA's bugbear.
Smith is aware the team can do little if one of the game-changers like has a good day: "I think consistency-wise, they haven't been as good. But they have match-winners and that's why playing them in a one-off game makes them dangerous. They have guys who on their day can really punish you and take the game away. That's why in Cup competitions, they are a very dangerous opponent to come up against."
That said, the South Africans have had the best preparation they could have asked for, a batting lineup to die for, a formidable pace battery and even a trio of spinners with providing the surprise package. Given the scenario, only tactical mistakes with the playing XI need to be avoided.
WI skipper Darren Sammy, on the other hand, is hoping his team will at least get through to the quarters without embarrassment. His team, which hasn't beaten a top side in almost 18 months, will slip to ninth in the rankings if they lose so it's really all about saving face. Sammy, to many a skipper by default following internal fissures, is hoping the seniors will come to the party. "We just want to see West Indies play like they did in the 1980s. We need to play to our full potential. I would rather have consistency than flamboyance