South Africa Cricket: Is it the Proteas’ time? By Pieter Swanepoel

 

 

The Cricket World Cup has not been kind to South Africa cricket in the past, but the Proteas have a chance to build on their semi-final loss in 2015, when the tournament kicks of on Friday in England and Wales. The Proteas will play in the tournament’s opening match on May 30. You can read a preview of the match here.

It’s tough to gauge exactly what the expectations are for South Africa at the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

On the one hand, the Proteas won their first ever knockout-stage match and advanced to the semi-finals in 2015, before falling to co-hosts New Zealand. So the simple fact they did finally win a do-or-die game at a World Cup was a monkey off their back, of sorts.

On the other, South Africa appear to be taking a much weaker squad to England and Wales, than the one that travelled to Australia and New Zealand four years ago. There’s no AB de Villiers, for a start.

The pressure is on Faf du Plessis, who will lead the Proteas into the World Cup for the first time. Hashim Amla and Imram Tahir join du Plessis as players who will be competing in their third World Cup.

 

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South Africa Cricket squad: Much expected of de Kock

 

From a South African perspective, the X-factor will probably be Quinton de Kock. The wicket-keeper-batsman is one of the best cricketers at present in the world and will be asked to shoulder a huge load for the Proteas. At just 26 years old, de Kock is now ranked as No. 4 ODI batsman in the world, on spot above du Plessis at No. 5. Another exciting batsman for the Proteas will be Rassie van der Dussen, while not losing sight of the normally consistent Aiden Markram and the potentially explosive David Miller.

In the ‘other discipline’, South Africa’s highest-rated bowler is the 40-year-old Imran Tahir at No. 4, while Kagiso Rabada is right behind at No. 5.

Meanwhile as a team, the Proteas are currently ranked No. 3 in the world, behind only India and New Zealand.

In what could either be a chance to overcome their disappointing past performances or a chance for history to repeat itself, Edgbaston will again host a semi-final match. If South Africa do advance to the semi-finals this time (maybe against Australia?), expect the Proteas to set some higher standards for themselves.

One cannot deny that there is some concern in South Africa about the composition of the batting order and more particularly, the fragility of its fast bowlers, but easily the greatest alarm is the standard of the Proteas fielding.

 

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Where are the gun fielders?

 

Long gone are the days when the team kitted in the green and yellow set the standard on the international circuit. They were pretty much the first international side to focus so much on fielding when Jonty Rhodes came about and to treat it as an aspect of the game as important as batting and bowling when it comes to gaining an edge.

Yes, they were previously blessed with the freakish individual talents of AB de Villiers, Rhodes and Herschelle Gibbs, but the overall ability in the field was often the difference between winning and losing a tight one-day international, due to their ability to save sometimes as much as 15 runs.The current Proteas group is certainly not the benchmark any longer, with even the subcontinent teams now possessing young and athletic fielders, throwing themselves around in the inner ring and the boundary, obviously helped along by the IPL.

Justin Ontong, who was also once a livewire in the outfield and cover point himself, is now tasked with getting the Proteas up to scratch as the team’s fielding coach.

 

Gibson the man for the job

 

What should count firmly in their favour is having South Africa cricket national head coach Ottis Gibson on board.

His naturally calm, unflustered demeanour should rub off positively on his team, while his very rich knowledge of conditions and other hallmarks at the various grounds the Proteas will play at will be an invaluable asset to the side.

Come up short over the next seven weeks, and Gibson will quickly become, in the minds of many, just another ho-hum link in the already quite extensive chain of post-isolation South African coaches.As the South African journalist Rod Houwing recently wrote, win CWC 2019, though, and he will catapult dramatically in public perception to top of the pile, arguably worthy of a statue – perhaps alongside his faithful captain Faf du Plessis – outside the Wanderers or Newlands.

There may not be too much in between for him, really, such is the raw desperation for South Africa to finally get the infernal World Cup right.

 

Playing XI not finalised

 

With Amla scoring well in the warm-up match against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, in-form Aiden Markram could find himself left out on May 30 against England.

Given the fact that Markram has just come off a hugely successful county stint with Hampshire, one would think that his inclusion in the starting XI for The Oval would be a no-brainer. It isn’t.

The other option sees Amla and Markram both playing in a move that would see Markram bat at No. 4 and Rassie van der Dussen left out entirely.

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