“The c-word right? We have taken remedial measures,” quipped A.B de Villiers recently.
The South African captain was referring to ‘choke’, a word that has added salt to many perceived wounds in the past.
In the coming days, starting with Friday’s ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights Group I clash against Pakistan here at the R. Premadasa Stadium, the Proteas have a chance to finally build a bridge between ‘innate ability’ and ‘performance under pressure.’
Its recent thumping victories against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, the last one coming in a rain-marred seven-over-a-side biff, revealed a dominant side. Having travelled the 238 kms that splits Hambantota, its previous venue, from Colombo, de Villiers is keen that his men extend their fine fettle.
“This is a tough group but we have prepared enough to take on anything,” the skipper said here on Thursday.
The easy outing against Zimbabwe and the compressed game against Sri Lanka has meant that except for its top-order, none else have got enough ‘batting time’ but de Villiers said that his men will ‘adapt’.
With men like Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn in its mix and the skipper himself being a master of the rasping blade and the blinding shot, South Africa has the right men.
The real test will start against mercurial Pakistan and the biggest worry for South Africa is Saeed Ajmal.
“I don’t think all of them (batsmen) read him,” admitted de Villiers. The off-spinner being a trump-card in association with Shahid Afridi’s leg-breaks, was also dwelt upon by Mohammad Hafeez.
Much like its rival, Pakistan has blazed away thanks to its top-three — Hafeez, Imran Nazir and Nasir Jamshed.
A worry though is its spearhead Umar Gul’s patchy streak. He needs to find his true self as Pakistan, a former champion in 2009, gets set for another ride hopefully without its usual roller-coaster air.
The teams (from):
Pakistan: Md. Hafeez (captain), N. Jamshed, I. Nazir, K. Akmal, U. Akmal, Y. Arafat, S. Malik, A. Razzak, U. Gul, M. Sami, R. Hasan, S. Ajmal, S. Afridi, S. Tanvir and A. Shafiq.
South Africa: A.B de Villiers (captain), H. Amla, R. Levi, J. Kallis, J-P. Duminy, Faf du Plessis, R. Peterson, J. Botha, A. Morkel, D. Steyn, M. Morkel, W. Parnell, J. Ontong, L. Tsotsobe and F. Behardien.
Umpires: Rod Tucker and Ian Gould.
Third umpire: Richard Kettleborough; Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.