South Africa need to sort out their bowling attack if they want to win the World Cup, says former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe.
Crowe, writing for ESPNCricinfo.com, says the team with the most incisive bowling attack, ‘capable of jolting pampered batsmen out of their comfort zones’, will win this World Cup.
The 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand has certainly been a tournament for the batsmen, with 300+ totals being scored regularly.
It’s no secret Crowe has a fondness, if not admiration, for South Africa and their captain AB de Villiers. After predicting a New Zealand vs South Africa final before the World Cup started, Crowe has since written an open letter full of advice to De Villiers after the big loss against India in their second pool match.
Now, with the play-offs looming, Crowe has given his verdict on what each team should focus on in order to reach the final on 29 March.
According to Crowe, South Africa need two things to come off if they are to progress in the tournament.
The first is their bowling attack and the second is Hashim Amla. South Africa, he believes, are vulnerable and it isn’t surprising.
‘They are weighed down by the past and must start to properly embrace the present, for they can play, writes Crowe.
‘There are two critical components to nail, if they are to prevail. Hashim Amla must work his way through the first 20 overs and set a foundation. He is the glue. Without it, the dam will burst, and not even AB de Villiers, bless him, will handle the oncoming rush, especially in a chase. With Amla at the crease, the minds of his team-mates settle in the present. When he is not there, fear of instability spreads.
‘Also, I still believe they need four specialist quicks – with Vernon Philander or Wayne Parnell at seven – because having only four bowlers in form is a concern, and playing too many batsmen can be counterproductive. The priority is to get the bowling selection nailed first.’
By his high standards, Amla has been below par in the pool stages. He scored 159 against Ireland and 65 against the West Indies, but failed to front in the two big games against India and Pakistan. Amla and De Villiers are South Africa’s two best batsmen, and if they don’t fire in the play-offs the team will be in trouble.
As for the bowling, Crowe’s suggestion that there should be a fourth fast bowler clashes with De Villiers’ comments after the win against the UAE on Thursday, when the captain said it would be unlikely that Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott would be picked in the same team. It seems Wayne Parnell is only likely to play should there be an injury.
Philander made his comeback from a hamstring injury against the UAE after missing the three pool games against West Indies, Ireland and Pakistan respectively.
Abbott did well in his absence, but Philander is clearly the preferred choice with his batting capabilities further strengthening his case.
It’s interesting that a player, who for a long time was regarded as a Test specialist, is now suddenly an undroppable ODI bowler.
None of South Africa’s seamers are in particularly great form. They have got away with using JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien and De Villiers himself as fifth and sixth bowlers against the weaker teams, but they won’t get away with it that easily against quality opposition in the play-offs.
With Philander the first-choice third seamer and Quinton de Kock still enjoying the backing of his captain, it seems the only real decision to make before next Wednesday’s quarter-final is to choose between Rilee Rossouw and Behardien as the seventh batsman.