If last year’s India vs South Africa series is anything to go by, it’s fair to say the majority of cricket fans in India are huge fans of this South African cricket team. At times during that series the ‘ABD’ chants were even louder than the ‘MSD’ chants. The South African team is a highly likeable team and I am sure cricket fans will turn out at the stadiums in high numbers to support them.
When one looks at the South African team, one only wonder’s how this group of talented and athletic guys have not managed to win a T20 or ODI World Cup. However, they do have the team this year that can go all the way.
Leading up to the T20 World Cup, South Africa have played 5 T20s in 2016, winning three (two against England and one against Australia) and losing two (both against Australia).
When one talks about the South African cricket team, how can you not talk about AB de Villiers? AB has redefined the rules of batting in the last few years. He is a 360 degree batsmen who can hit the ball to any part of the park. For a man of his class, AB’s T20 record isn’t too impressive. In 67 T20 Internationals, he has a batting average of 22.87 at a strike rate of 128.89. However, everyone knows that ABD is a lot more than just these numbers and every opposition will know that he is the key player that they need to dismiss.
One of AB’s struggles in the T20 games has been to identify his role. In ODI cricket his role is very well defined. He needs to bat from over 30 – over 50 and consolidate on the starts made by the top 3. Typically if he bats out these overs, he will score a 100. However in the T20 format he has been batting at different positions. He has played the most at number 4, at an average of 27.8 with a strike rate of 125. However, AB was promoted to number 3 during the 2015 IPL and enjoyed great success scoring 513 runs at an average of 46.63 and a strike rate of 175.08. He stated during the IPL that he has always wanted to bat at the top of the order in the T20 format and enjoyed this role. Hence he was promoted to the top of the order in the South Africa T20 squad as well. Post the IPL he opened the innings for South Africa on eight occasions and has scored 203 runs at an average of 25.38 at a strike rate of 142.9.
So it’s fair to say that this new role hasn’t yet fully clicked for him, but one can only expect the strike rate and average to go up over this tournament.
All Round Balance
South Africa is one of those teams who seem to have all their bases covered. Strong top order in the form of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock, power hitters in David Miller and JP Duminy, quick bowlers in Dale Styen, Chris Morris, Kyle Abbot & Kagiso Rabada and a mighty spinner in Imran Tahir. On paper, they have a complete squad that can challenge any opposition, irrespective of the conditions.
Spin to Win
Imran Tahir has a huge role to play in South Africa’s chances in the tournament. The 36-year-old leggie has picked up 37 wickets for South Africa at a mighty impressive economy rate of 6.72. He played a huge role in South Africa’s T20 wins in 2016, taking 10 wickets in 5 games. Tahir has the 3rd best strike rate in all T20 internationals, picking up a wicket every 13 balls. In Indian conditions, he will be a key bowler who can build pressure in the middle overs and take key wickets when needed. If South Africa do go on to win the tournament, I wouldn’t be surprised if Imran Tahir lands up as the man of the tournament.
With AB de Villiers now batting at the top of the order, the responsibility of finishing the innings now falls on the shoulders of David Miller and JP Duminy. David Miller has made this role his own over the past few years be it playing for South Africa or in the IPL.
Big Match Temperament
Quite a few South African players have admitted that the scars of the 1999 World Cup loss to Australia were so deep that the team hasn’t still quite fully recovered from it. South Africa is a team that should have won quite a few World Cups by now. They have always had the team to go all the way, but have somehow always tragically fallen short. It will be interesting to see whether the pressure of playing in the World Cup and the baggage of all those losses over the years will get the better of them or not.
AB de Villiers did not play the deciding T20 game against Australia due to a shoulder niggle. So it will be interesting to see if he has fully recovered in time for their first game. The whole of South Africa will be praying that his shoulder doesn’t restrict him during the tournament, with the bat or in the field.
Dale Steyn has also just returned to International cricket after a shoulder injury. This injury forced him to miss a lot of cricket over the past few months.
World Class All Rounder
Over the years South Africa have been known to produce world class all rounders. Be it the likes of Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock or Brian McMillan. However after Kallis, the quality of genuine all rounders in South Africa has been quite average. They persisted with Ryan McLaren for a few years, but that didn’t work out so now three new all rounders have entered the mix. Chris Morris is more of a fast bowler who has the potential to tonk the ball around. David Wiese shot to fame after doing well for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2015. However from what we have seen of him so far, he doesn’t seem like a major threat with the bat or ball. Farhan Behardine is another all rounder with whom the team has persisted over the past few years. He is more of a lower order batsman who can bowl an over or two of stump-to-stump medium pace.
None of these all rounders have made the number 7 position their own so far, as a result of which South Africa have struggled with their 5th bowler over the last few years.
New Kid On The Block
20-year-old Kagiso Rabada has already made a huge impact in his first season of International cricket. He made his presence felt during the ODI series against India in India. He achieved the rare feat of not allowing MS Dhoni to finish a game off in the first ODI in Kanpur. Rabada bowls in the high 140’s and has had tremendous success in all formats of the game. Facing the likes of Rabada and Steyn is going to be a challenge for any opposition.