Cricket

World Cup team analysis: South Africa - not being a favourite should ease pressure

Go-to men: South Africa will look to Imran Tahir, fresh off his IPL showing, and skipper Faf du Plessis to deliver.  

Four days ago when skipper Faf du Plessis called on his countrymen to play “without the fear of failure,” it was easy to see where it was coming from. The way South Africa has contrived to lose key matches at major ICC events, many of them in tragicomic circumstances, needs no reminding.

“We believed you had to be really special to win the World Cup, that you had to do something more than you usually do, which is not true,” du Plessis said. “We have to do the basics well. Teams don’t win the World Cup by someone scoring a century off 50 balls or taking seven for 20.”

That South Africa isn’t considered among the favourites may ease the pressure and allow the flowering of an undeniably talented outfit. Most recently, it white-washed a hapless Sri Lanka 5-0 in ODIs and 3-0 in T20Is.

Quietly confident

The difference in quality was stark but the result was significant in that it was achieved when the Proteas were an anxious lot - a state which has triggered many a meltdown - after having lost inexplicably to Lanka 2-0 in Tests at home. The side will now arrive in England quietly confident.

South Africa will open against tournament-favourite England, a schedule that coach Ottis Gibson has said will suit the team, for it will serve as the ideal measuring stick.

Team’s strength

The team’s strength is its bowling attack, to be spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada, who appears to have recovered from the back injury that cut short his IPL stint. Add Dale Steyn - who is recovering from a shoulder strain - Andile Phehlukwayo and Lungi Ngidi, it does seem a competent mix.

In veteran leggie Imran Tahir, for whom the tournament will be a swansong, South Africa has someone who just finished the IPL as the highest-wicket taker with 26. With the summer in England predicted to be hotter and drier than average, Tahir and left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi will be crucial.

At the top, much rests on the swashbuckling wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock. But as to who will open alongside is still a point of debate.

Hashim Amla’s selection, despite an indifferent run in recent months, shows how much the think-tank values experience and a cool head. Aiden Markam has found form only intermittently.

However, the batting mainstay, in this post A.B. de Villiers era, will be du Plessis and the team’s fortunes may well hinge on how he manages the responsibility. Rassie van der Dussen has been a dynamic presence, averaging 88.25 from nine matches since his debut in January. The seasoned J-P. Duminy, just back from a lengthy lay-off, will hope for a rousing finish to his ODI career.

Perhaps, the only source of unease will be that unlike Australia and England, South African players featured in the IPL until the very end - Tahir, de Kock and du Plessis played the final - despite Gibson’s request that they come home early. He was left thanking his lucky stars that it didn’t claim Rabada. He will now hope nothing stops his wards from going full tilt.


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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 7:03:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/world-cup-team-analysis-south-africa-not-being-a-favourite-should-ease-pressure/article27199516.ece

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