Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming has singled out Faf du Plessis as the key man in the South African World Cup squad.
Fleming, who played 111 Tests and 280 ODIs for his country, was writing for the official ICC World Cup site.
Said the 41-year-old: ‘Everyone is raving about AB de Villiers after his world record hundred from just 31 balls – and rightly so – but Faf du Plessis can be just as effective and destructive. I know his ability having coached him at Chennai Super Kings. He is unorthodox but very driven and he has taken his game forward with huge strides in the past 12 to 18 months. He is capable of digging in or blitzing the opposition and he will be a wicket every opposition side will be desperate to get and get early.’
Of the other major countries, Fleming was also asked to name his key player. He felt that tournament favourite and hosts Australia, will need Glenn Maxwell to feature prominently.
‘There is lots of attention on David Warner and Aaron Finch at the top of the order but Maxwell is the man who, if he is hot, is capable of winning matches on his own. I saw that first-hand in last year’s Pepsi Indian Premier League when, for Kings XI Punjab, he destroyed Chennai Super Kings single-handedly. He is unorthodox and I would use him as a floater in the order, give him license to go for his shots and fill him full of positive thoughts. He is not a player you should count on every time but in tournaments like this, where you need big performances in big matches, he can be the difference between winning and losing.’
He reckoned that India would need MS Dhoni to fire if the reigning champions were to hold onto the coveted trophy. ‘Knowing him as I do from our time together at the Chennai Super Kings I just have a feeling he could do something special. It is true he has nothing to prove – he won the tournament on home soil as captain with a six, for goodness sake – but he thrives on the big stage in the biggest matches. He loves being part of and winning battles and as he showed in the 2011 final, when he pushed himself up the order, he can be a catalyst for his team.’
When it came to the other countries Fleming named Eion Morgan as the key to England’s chances – ‘if he gets runs then others can feed off that and although it is too early to know what sort of captain he is, if he can encourage some positivity and belief then England could, just could, be contenders’.
Ross Taylor got his node as the Kiwi dangerman. ‘There is lots of focus, and rightly so, on Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson, but if Taylor can complement those two at No4 then that really will take New Zealand to a new level. His form at the start of last year against India hinted at what he can do, as did his barnstorming innings against Pakistan in Pallekele four years ago, and he offers skills as either a stabiliser or a devastating finisher. He will also feed off his mentor Martin Crowe’s inspiration given Crowe’s role as a Kiwi talisman 23 years ago.’
Lasith Malinga was named as Sri Lanka’s key, Shahid Afridi for Pakistan, Jason Holder for the West Indies and Brendan Taylor for Zimbabwe.