Dubai: South Africa have a good chance of redeeming themselves and shedding their chokers tag in this World Cup.
As in the past, the Proteas start as one of the hot favourites to win cricket’s showpiece event, but their agony from the near misses — to be precise three semi-finals appearances since 1992 — have put huge pressure on the team to bring the trophy home.
South Africa were unlucky last time the tournament went Down Under in 1992, when a sudden downpour spoiled their chances as they lost two crucial overs in the semi-finals against England, returning to a target of 22 runs off one ball.
One cannot forget Australia captain Steve Waugh’s words after Herschelle Gibbs dropped an easy chance in their crucial Super Sixes clash in 1999, when he reportedly told Gibbs: “You’ve just dropped the World Cup.”
Then, when the two sides met again in the semi-final in England, South Africa collapsed and tied the match, meaning they missed out on the final because of an inferior run-rate in the group stage.
This year the Proteas have an unrivalled team combination, with the batting revolving around skipper AB de Villiers and the bowling led by Dale Steyn. De Villiers warmed up for the mega event with a world record century off 31 balls.
Their line-up also boasts names like Hashim Amla, who can play the anchor role, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy, who can wade into the bowling and up the tempo during the later part of the innings. On any given day, each of the top six South African batsmen can produce an innings that could take the match away from their opponents.
However, the missing aspect in the South African line-up is a quality all-rounder of the calibre of Jacques Kallis, who would have been a big asset on the bouncy Australian pitches. The Proteas will bank on Duminy to play the all-rounder’s role, but the left-handed batsman has just been getting into the groove during the limited overs games against the West Indies after being out of action since November last year with a knee injury.
The Proteas’ preparations have also been hampered by an injury to De Kock. However, the wicketkeeper-batsman’s return from an ankle ligament tear will be a big boost to De Villiers as it will take the wicketkeeper’s load off him.
Rilee Rossouw seems to have eased the opening concerns with his maiden century against the West Indies, as he set the platform for De Villiers to clatter the Caribbean bowling attack in the second One Day International at Johannesburg.
Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander make up a formidable fast-bowling combination and will test even the best batting line-up. They will be supported by leg-spinner Imran Tahir and Duminy.
This South African team has all the right ingredients to go the distance in this World Cup, but the knockout format from the quarter-finals will be a big test of their aspirations. Skipper De Villiers is aware of the pressure his team is facing and no one knows better than him as to what it takes to clinch the World Cup, as he is playing in his third edition.
AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), J.P. Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn.
A strong batting line-up packed with power-hitters.
Fearsome fast bowling combination that is capable of testing the best.
A perfectly balanced team.
Lack of quality all-rounders.
Weak support bowlers.
Tendency to collapse under pressure.
Semi-finals (1992, 1999, 2007)