Prince reigns supreme as SA enter a new era
Ashwell Prince leads South Africa as itâ€™s the first black captain in the Test series against Sri Lanka here from Thursday knowing he may have inspired a new generation of players back home.
â€œFor someone who dared not dream of playing international cricket as a youngster, itâ€™s a big honour,â€ Prince said in an interview ahead of the first Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC).
Prince, 29, was appointed skipper for the two-Test series after regular captain Graeme Smith twisted an ankle prior to the tour and vice-captain Jacques Kallis was ruled out with a tennis elbow injury.
â€œWhen I was growing up I never thought I would play a Test match because apartheid South Africa was banned at that time and there was no first-class cricket in the country,â€ said Prince. â€œBut I was about 15 when we were admitted back to world cricket in 1991 and I clearly remember South Africaâ€™s first match against India in Kolkata (a one-day international).
â€œThatâ€™s when the desire to play cricket grew stronger and I was very determined because there were many obstacles in the way. I had to prove myself to make it big.â€
Prince was included in South Africaâ€™s team for a Test match against Australia in Johannesburg in February 2002 on the back of the governmentâ€™s controversial quota system that made it compulsory to draft black players.
But the gutsy left-handed batsman proved himself with a 49 on debut and hit a match-winning 48 in the Durban Test of the same series to ensure he was not ignored later. â€œIn the beginning, you never knew whether you were there in the side because of the quota system or you were really good enough to play,â€ said Prince, who has now played 21 Tests.
â€œBut when I grew older and became mature, I realised I did not have to prove anything to anyone. Guys like (Makhaya) Ntini, Herschelle (Gibbs), me and many others have laid the foundation for the next generation of black players. They wonâ€™t have to go through what we went through.â€
The dramatic changes in South Africa have lessened the pressure on Prince being the countryâ€™s first black captain. â€œI know I am part of history but frankly that makes no difference to me,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s an honour, but anyone would have felt the same way if they had been asked to captain the country.
Ã¬The captain was not available, the vice-captain was also not there, so they thought I was the next best man for the job. It does not make me a different person. I still have to go out there and bat and field well. The only change is the toss, making bowling changes and things like that.â€
With Smith and Kallis out and veteran all-rounder Shaun Pollock missing the first Test following the birth of his second child, the South Africans face an uphill task to beat the hosts in the upcoming series.
Prince, however, said the tag of underdogs suited his team fine. â€œWe know we are without three of our best players but we have to get on with the game,â€ he said. â€œPeople have begun to write us off even before the series has started. That is actually not a bad thing because it has charged the players up a bit. â€œSouth Africa is a very proud sporting nation. We donâ€™t give up so easily,â€ he expressed.
Source:The NewsMore on:Ashwell Prince, South Africa, South Africa in Sri Lanka 2006
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