Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Team South Africa, World Cup 2011
GROUP B (Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, Netherlands, South Africa, West Indies)
Team - SOUTH AFRICA
ODI Rank - 4
ODI Rating - 118
Last World Cup - Semi-finals
Finals Appearances - none
Best in a World Cup- Semi-finalists (1992, 1999, 2007)
Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Morne van Wyk (wk), Colin Ingram, Johan Botha, Imran Tahir, Robin Peterson, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Strength - Talented top order, fiery fast bowlers
Weakness - inexperienced and imploding lower middle order
One of the most feared, yet, most unlucky cricketing side in the world (especially in the world cups), South Africa. This time, they enter the tournament as one of the most fancied teams to lift the trophy. A very healthy squad has been picked by the management, and will try and do all that it takes to reach that ever-elusive trophy in this battleground!
The squad has mostly been picked based on the form of the player. Kallis alone comes into the squad from his injury. Imran Tahir, with 500+ wickets in his bag will be one of the most awaited talent yet to be seen by most people. The only surprise in the squad, to me, was Wayne Parnell, who didn't seem to impress much in the ODI series vs India recently.
The strength of the SA team lies in 2 different parts - top order, and, pace department (though, I do not want to take everything away from spin).
The SA openers, Smith and Amla have been rock solid for the past few months. Amla is surely the man with the most perfect start to his ODI career, averaging in the high-50s and strike rate over 90. To those who undermined his abilities in the limited format, Amla has silenced them all with his bat. This man, who walks with utmost humility doesn't have to do much to command respect. he gets them, along with love. Captain Smith, who will be leading his side in ODIs for the last time, is in good form with the bat, and has been a spectacular captain over the last 6-7 years. He will look to add one big feather to his cap in this World Cup.
After the openers, in come Kallis and AB de Villiers, who are both destructive and inning-building characters, who can any day take the game away from you with such an ease, that they may not sweat! Kallis has been rested for the ODIs to nurse a niggling injury. And, AB is nursing a little dip in his form against the Indians, in which he was less than the explosive AB we know.
The middle order for the South Africans is going to be tricky, from selector's point of view. They have Ingram, Duminy, Peterson, van Wyk out there, for 3 spots. Duminy is quite certain to retain one place. Ingram has been in and out of form He has been good with the bat in the death overs, and can bowl a couple of overs when required. Robbie-P is quite the opposite - he is good with his orthodox bowling and can step up to play a cameo in the end. van Wyk has shown his capabilities with the bat. He also becomes SA's back-up wicket keeper. If one assumes that their middle order is in good batting touch, then this team can score big and chase big. But, unfortunately for them, the haven't put on very huge totals very frequently in the recent times. Another name to tinker with for a middle-order slot will be the talented Faf du Plessis who didn't get too much of an opportunity to unleash his talents in the debut games vs India.
SA's bowling is looking very very strong at the moment. Morne Morkel is looking more threatening than Dale Steyn. And Tsotsobe has been very good with his line and length. Its a perfect mix of ingredients. One plays you full, one swings it at medium pace, and one bounces the ball chest high from good length. And then, there is Kallis! Any batting side that can manage all of them must be appreciated for their efforts. Not easy. Their spin department, though not as renowned as their pace battery, is nevertheless effective. Botha is most likely to start the game, or, so is the rest of the world hoping. Robin Peterson's place is a maybe-maybe_not. But, beware you me, they have a seasoned campaigner in Imran Tahir. Me telling "he is a very talented spinner" is too short of being able to describe what he is worth. He has played in Pakistan, England and South Africa, and knows almost every tricks of the trade. The last first class game he played, he picked up 12 wickets, on a South African soil. This talent is going to surface for the world to see....finally.
All the good that the SA line up look good on paper, they have had some worries of their own. They have not been able to shut the opponent's innings close for good in some occasions in the recent times. And hard hitters like Sammy, Razzak and Yusuf have proved over the past year, that even the Steyns and Morkels are not the best if one tries to be aggressive at them. Their batting has sometimes, not just lost air, but burst like a balloon, as was the case in their last ODI prior to the World Cup now, when they lost 6 wickets for a mere 20 runs. And in another occasion, failed to chase down a not-so-difficult chase of under 200 after almost looking to get it. How much of a boost will the addition of Kallis be to this side which was stretched by India? The epic all-rounder of my generation will be back in action, and be hoping to deliver the goods at the top of the batting order and with the ball!
SA play WI, Nederlands, England, India, Ireland and Bangladesh in that order with comfortable gaps for the big games. One would expect them to be ready for any challenge thrown at them. Semi finals? Surely! Further than that?
Nearly every team has "choked" at some point or the other in the past few years, but the world associates the name with SA every time they lose a game, whether or not they choke, the viewers construct the image as a choke. This has been on the mindset of the SA team for a long time and have been trying to prove the world wrong. With the talent they are carrying to the campaign, one would reckon they are going to do all it takes to become the world champion. In the past couple of years, they have matched India blood for blood, taken down Australia in their own back-yard, tried and tested England and silenced other teams in more occasions than not. 19 years after being re-instated, they want to wipe their slippery hands and finally lift the trophy with firm grip.
They can do it. Will they?