If the World Championship is awarded to teams based on the number of match-winners in the squad and the qualitative performances of the teams round the year, then South Africa would be the perennial World Champions. The most consistent cricketing brigade over the last five years, the Proteas, as their ‘Chokers’ tag
suggests, have consistently failed to stand up as a unit during crucial junctures of major tournaments. South Africa and ICC trophies have never gone well together ever since the inception of the team into cricket post-Apartheid, with the 1998 Champions Trophy as the only exception. And the South African hopes this time would be to re-live the memories of the first edition and add some meaning to the ‘favourites’ tag they carry around in every tournament.
Led by the flamboyant Abraham de Villiers, South Africa have a batting line-up with the right mix of class, elegance and innovation. A young squad with plenty of experience, the South African batters have the ability to handle the best of bowling line-ups around the world. In Hashim Amla and De Villiers, they have two of the world’s best batsmen at the moment, who could anchor and attack with the same might. Francois du Plessis and David Miller are two exciting prospects who can tear up the opposition into pieces with their aggressive approach in this format of the game. There will be many eyes, especially on the southpaw, expecting him to carry his brilliant form from the Indian Premier League into this tournament.
Jean Paul Duminy is one seasoned campaigner with the capability to shield his side from tricky situations with the experience that he has got in him. Farhaan Behardien and Colin Ingram have been good in patches over the last one year and fans would be expecting them to deliver their goods this month. It will be a test of character for opener Alviro Petersen, who will be expected to make the most of his opportunities in his comeback series.
Easily the best pace bowling unit amongst all other teams, the Dale Steyn led attack would have already caused sleepless nights to the openers from India, Pakistan and West Indies. With seamer-friendly pitches likely to be prepared in England, Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe would be raring to have a go at the opposition. Ryan McLaren, who is said to have replaced Jacques Kallis in the side for the Champions Trophy, will be keen on supporting the pace battery with his medium pace. Robin Peterson has adjusted to his limited capabilities with the ball and has been a very useful slow bowler for the Proteas, while Aaron Phangiso could be tested by batsmen who can play the turning ball.
1. Top-order batsmen: When two men from the side hold on to the top two positions of the ICC ODI batting rankings, then it could boast of having the strongest batting unit of the tournament. Amla and De Villiers have been in ominous form over the last 2-3 years and the side’s hopes for claiming the trophy could depend a lot on their contribution to the side.
2. Fast bowlers: Steyn, Morkel, Tsotsobe – The most fearsome bowling attack in recent times. On their day, even a World XI could be shattered into bits. Trust me, they are the players who could command the proceedings of the entire 50-over tournament.
1. Ability to handle spin: As many would say, it has been the traditional South African problem over the last decade. Although Amla, de Villiers and Duminy can handle spin well, the inexperienced part of the Proteas’ batting set-up could be in for a test of their mettle, especially against the likes of Ashwin, Ajmal and Narine in the league stages.
2. Absence of a quality all-rounder: When Jacques Kallis pulled out from the tournament, a big void was left in the South African squad. It also meant that the most consistent all-rounder would be sorely missed by the African side. Ryan McLaren was selected to fit in that void, but Behardien and Duminy must also work alongside him to fill in that huge gap.
It’s neither De Villiers/Amla nor Steyn/Morkel. For me, that would be Gary Kirsten. Yes, it’s the large-hearted man who guided India to its World Cup triumph. Coaches usually don’t dominate in cricket as in football, but he has silently been the motivation in bringing the best out of players and should South Africa break the ‘chokers’ jinx, Kirsten would play a key role.
With English conditions largely in their favour according to history, South Africa are all set to break all the false predictions and make it to the final in this edition.
Ab de Villiers(C/WK), Hashim Amla, Francois du Plessis, Alviro Petersen, David Miller, JP Duminy, Colin Ingram, Farhaan Behardien, Ryan Mclaren, Dale Steyn, Robin Peterson, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rory Kleinveldt, Aaron Phangiso.
June 6: South Africa vs India, Cardiff
June 10: Pakistan vs South Africa, Birmingham
June 14: South Africa vs West Indies, Cardiff