In perfect frame of mind

Despite his stodgy Test reputation, Hashim Amla(in pic, with skipper Graeme Smith) boasts an ODI strike-rate that rivals Virender Sehwag's.-PTI Despite his stodgy Test reputation, Hashim Amla(in pic, with skipper Graeme Smith) boasts an ODI strike-rate that rivals Virender Sehwag's.

South Africa has a packed batting line-up and the most dangerous fast bowler in the game, but 11 members of its 15-strong squad have never played in a World Cup. By Kunal Diwan.

This World Cup provides South Africa yet another chance to shed its ‘chokers' tag. After rallying to win a hotly contested series against India, the Proteas are in the perfect frame of mind to have a tilt at this most coveted of prizes in the sport.

Skipper Graeme Smith has said that how a team approaches Powerplays — especially the last one of either innings — will determine its fate.

“The conditions are going to be quite batter friendly so scores might be quite high. I think we have a solid top five and top six batting line-up. Finishing, with bat and ball, is something we need to be really strong on. Powerplay 3, when that's taken and how that's used and how's it's managed with both bat and ball is going to be important.”

South Africa has a packed batting line-up and the most dangerous fast bowler in the game, but 11 members of its 15-strong squad have never played in a World Cup. Smith, A. B. de Villiers, Robin Peterson and Jacques Kallis are the only remainders from West Indies, 2007. The collection of first-timers includes Hashim Amla, who has started to extend his Test match success in the shorter format.

Despite his stodgy Test reputation, Amla boasts an ODI strike-rate that rivals Virender Sehwag's and although he has played in just 42 ODIs, the bearded one will be central to South Africa's gameplan in the sub-continent.

“I definitely feel like one of the older guys in the team, even if I have nowhere near the experience of someone like Graeme (Smith) or Jacques (Kallis),” Amla said, mentioning in the same sentence the other two constituents of the bedrock of South African batting.

In the non-inclusion of Mark Boucher, wicket-keeper Morne van Wyk will seek to continue his domestic Twenty20 form into the premier competition. Van Wyk also provides the management with an opening option, if Amla or Smith are indisposed.

South Africa's principal mode of attack will be its pace battery, which comprises Dale Steyn, Kallis, Morne Morkel and the two left-armers, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell. This is Steyn's first World Cup and if at all he needs guidance, he has to look no further than the veteran, Kallis, who is back to full functionality after being injured.

The Rainbow Nation's spinning duties will be shared between several inclusions, one of which is uncapped leggie Imran Tahir — the young Pakistan-born who gained eligibility to represent South Africa this New Year's day. “Imran is a special player, but we must not expect miracles of him. It is important that he be given the opportunity to find his feet,” said Amla.

There is another leg-spinning option in all-rounder Faf du Plessis and, despite what Smith has to say on the finishing angle, how the slower bowlers handle the middle overs might well determine how deep South Africa goes into the tournament.

THE SQUAD