T20 World Cup | Underdogs South Africa have muscle and variety to surprise the world

Mayank Kumar

Mayank Kumar

Author| Oct 22, 12:03 PM

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

While all other teams have garnered attractions and headlines for their qualities and what their players bring to the table at the world stage during the T20 World Cup, South Africa, as has been the case in the last few years, have attracted attention more for the players who are not with them in the squad than for the players who have arrived in UAE to try and win the trophy.

When the ghosts of AB de Villiers’s absence was finally buried for the Proteas to move on, there was the emergence of another quagmire in the form of Faf du Plessis, who retired from longer formats to prolong his T20 career. He has been in ominous touch across the T20 leagues but has not been deemed good enough for the South African side in the T20 World Cup for unknown reasons. 

Apart from Faf, the absence of Imran Tahir, who is not getting any worse with passing days in his life, and is in perfect rhythm to land his leg spinners and googlies to flummox the boatsmen, was also considered a big point before the squad took off for UAE.

So, does that mean the Proteas are a lesser force and will be a walkover in the World Cup? Certainly not.

They have produced staggering numbers in the recent past and the trump over a full-strength West Indies side in their backyard and emergence of players such as Aiden Markram, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi and improvement of Kagiso Rabada in white-ball cricket gives them a competitive advantage over others, although at an understated level.

South Africa squad

Temba Bavuma (C), Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock (WK), Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen

 Reserves: George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lizaad Williams

Rattling pace attack

The serendipitous rise of Anrich Nortje as a T20 bowler in the last edition of the Indian Premier League augurs well for the Proteas in this edition of the T20 World Cup. He will forge a deadly pace attack combination for opposition batsmen.

The pitches in the tournament are likely to be slower in nature and hence their brisk pace will make a difference to the Proteas’ fortunes as it has been for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL.

Both of them are capable enough of rile up the top order of the opposition and take wickets at the backend of the innings unleashing searing yorkers.

Furthermore, both Nortje and Rabada, along with the third probable pacer of the side—Lungi Ngidi have had a fair bit of experience of bowling on the pitches that will be used in the tournament and hence the South African can rely on their shoulders for good results with the ball.

Quinton de Kock and the IPL factor

Coach Mark Boucher had earlier raised high hopes from the players who were to travel to play for their IPL franchises and certainly Quinton de Kock is the most prominent one of them who will add both stability and flamboyance to the top order.

Quinton de Kock has played more than 20 IPL games on the same venues where the T20 World Cup will be played and his experience will matter a lot to South Africa.

If the Proteas are daring to dream big in the tournament, de Kock will have to own the powerplay phase of the game and provide the middle order with the impetus to go for glory shots in the end phase.

A lot of South Africa's go-to men in the squad are coming off the back of a length IPL season, if not a fruitful one, and their familiarity with the conditions will boost the overall quality of the squad.

The rare spin twins

South Africa, for the most part of their cricketing history, have struggled to find world-class spinners and although the long and dismal search ended reached a landmark phase with Imran Tahir, the journey never ended until the duo of Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi rose in statures.

Shamsi is the world’s best-ranked bowler in the format and a lot of credit for the series win over West Indies can be attributed to his variations and guile. From the other end, Maharaj has been relentless in pursuit of immaculate lines and lengths and the Proteas have a recognisable force to rule the middle phase of the games and provide the likes of Rabada and Nortje huge cushioning.

Shamsi is the leading wicket-taker in this year in international T20s cricket and he continued his form in the warm-up game against Afghanistan where he scalped three wickets. His continued discipline and wicket-taking abilities will drive Proteas’ campaign to great heights in this World Cup.

Underdog middle order

While there are more conversations about the star players who have earned big names in the IPL in recent years, there is another one in the squad who was once a feared lower-order batsman. David Miller was once a South Africa superstar who used to bat on the “if it’s in the arc, it’s out of the park” theme in his heydays. However, his numbers and fortunes have diminished in the last few years and so has his statures on the side and also on the world stage.

He, along with the duo of Rassie van der Dussen and Heinrich Klaasen will have to provide South Africa with the dazzling finish to the innings if they have to go to and beyond the par score in the tournament.

All three of them have a reputation for getting the job done from pressure situations and the Proteas will bank on him to produce cameos to lift the overall score.

Recent form

South Africa are coming into the tournament on the back of three consecutive series wins over West Indies, Ireland and Sri Lanka, and while the last two victories can be downplayed by the quality of the opposition, the win over the world champions Windies will give them confidence and their fans hope in the tournament.

Probable XI

Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma (C), Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Wiaan Mulder, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi

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