Faf du Plessis and his batsmen have to find form and consistency during the early stages of the World Cup, writes JON CARDINELLI.
How would the Proteas have fared at the 2015 World Cup without AB de Villiers? It’s a question worth revisiting as the 2019 tournament looms.
South Africa struggled to fire as a collective in Australasia four years ago. The batting was an issue, and yet one individual certainly delivered on the big stage.
De Villiers scored 30, 162 and 77 in the big pool clashes against India, West Indies and Pakistan. He hit 65 off 45 balls in the semi-final against New Zealand.
While his efforts failed to prevent defeat to India, Pakistan and New Zealand, the quality of his contribution was highlighted by the fact that he scored 483 runs at an average of 96.40 and ranked among the top three scorers at the tournament.
The Proteas have tried to move on since De Villiers’ retirement from the international game. They may feel that they have the top six to be a success at the 2019 World Cup, as well as the squad to succeed where every South African side has failed.
On this occasion, however, the collective, rather than one or two individuals will need to fire on a regular basis. Hashim Amla will need to find form. Quinton de Kock may have to temper his approach according to the situation.
JP Duminy and David Miller will have to contribute with more substantial scores – and on a more consistent basis – while the World Cup rookies Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen will also be under pressure to produce innings of consequence.
There is a lot of uncertainty around those players, though, even more so when one considers how some of them have performed at previous World Cups.
PROTEAS BATSMEN AT RECENT WORLD CUPS
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Amla’s World Cup average over the past two tournaments (42.6) may indicate a successful run, but a closer look reveals that all but one of his significant scores came against lesser opposition. Duminy and Miller were hit and miss at the last World Cup – although the latter struck a valuable 49 against New Zealand – while De Kock managed just one score in excess of 26.
Faf du Plessis is going to be the key man for the Proteas in England as far as the batting is concerned. He’s averaged 51.54 across the World Cup matches played in 2011 and 2015, and has made some crucial contributions – often in tandem with De Villiers. Indeed, it was Du Plessis who top-scored for the Proteas (82) in the 2015 semi-final against New Zealand.
De Villiers couldn’t win the World Cup on his own in 2015. Du Plessis shouldn’t be expected to shoulder all the responsibility this time round.
The Proteas need the majority of their players to fire, particularly in the early round-robin games against England and India. If the collective performs well in those matches – the toughest of the Proteas’ round-robin campaign – the side will take some much-needed confidence into the playoffs.