T20 World Cup: South Africa team preview - Down but not out

Even though the U-19 team won a World Cup in 2014, an ICC title has eluded the senior side. While it reached the semifinals on several occasions, clearly there has been many a slip between the cup and the lip!

Immensely talented: South Africa has the No. 1 ranked bowler in the format — the 31-year-old wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. He has been one of the leading wicket-takers for the Proteas and having featured in the IPL recently, he has a fair idea about the conditions.   -  Getty Images

The last and the only time South Africa’s senior men’s team won a multi-nation tournament was way back in 1998 when it defeated the West Indies to clinch the Wills International Cup.

Even though the U-19 team won a World Cup in 2014, an ICC title has eluded the senior side. While it reached the semifinals on several occasions, clearly there has been many a slip between the cup and the lip!

And as yet another ICC event — the T20 World Cup — beckons, South Africa has a lot to play for. The team has undergone a significant period of transition over the past few years, but then, it comes into the tournament after some good results. So, the aim will be to keep the momentum going and tick the right boxes from the early stage.

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However, there are fitness concerns as well. Captain Temba Bavuma is recovering from a thumb surgery and hasn’t had much game time recently. So it needs to be seen how the team thinktank manages the workload for the captain.

Enough depth in batting

The T20 World Cup hasn’t been quite memorable for the Proteas, which reached the semifinal stage only twice — in 2009 and 2014. Apart from those two editions, the team has failed to reach the knockout stages of the tournament.

But in a fickle format like T20s, past records and statistics seldom matter. With Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen in its ranks, there is depth in South Africa’s batting. Even though Markram and de Kock have had quite an average IPL outing, the two have enough experience to emerge as match-winners and ahead of the big ticket tournament, that’s exactly what South Africa will be expecting from them.

Having played in the UAE for a while in the IPL, some of the top guns have a fair idea about the surfaces and that would certainly be a boost.

In the absence of Faf du Plessis — who has been one of the seasoned campaigners — the focus will be on the vastly experienced David Miller to step up and deliver. Even though Miller failed to impress in the IPL, a couple of good knocks can change things for the 34-year-old.

World class bowling line-up

Undoubtedly, South Africa has one the best fast-bowling attacks, comprising Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje. Over the last few years, Rabada and Nortje have proven their abilities as match-winners and this time, too, all eyes will be on them.

However, both of them have had long spells in the IPL and have played continuous cricket, so the team management — led by coach Mark Boucher — will have to keep a tab on the their workload and ensure that they are not fatigued.

South Africa will rely heavily on Quinton de Kock in terms of getting off to good starts with the bat, and on the field, his inputs and experience could be valuable for the side.   -  AFP

 

The side also has the No. 1 ranked bowler in the format — the 31-year-old wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. He has been one of the leading wicket-takers for the Proteas and having featured in the IPL recently, he has a fair idea about the conditions.

The team has enough depth in its batting and bowling departments and that’s a huge strength ahead of the World Cup. There are players like Heinrich Klaasen and Dwaine Pretorious, who can single-handedly win matches and it would be important for them to strike form and gain early momentum.

Weakness: Inconsistency is a huge problem for the South African team. The fact that the team hasn’t done well in an ICC tournament recently may put additional pressure on the players. The lack of a experienced leader like Faf du Plessis is also a concern.

The squad
  • Temba Bavuma (captain), Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock (wk), Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, W Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen
  • Reserves: George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lizaad Williams

X-factor: Quinton de Kock

Quinton de Kock is a key player of the South African team.

The seasoned campaigner, who has earlier served as the captain, understands situations perfectly and can be a go-to-man in times of crisis.

South Africa will rely heavily on him in terms of getting off to good starts with the bat, and on the field, his inputs and experience could be valuable for the side.

He had an average outing in the IPL for Mumbai Indians, but de Kock has the talent to guide his side to glory.