South Africa will face strong competition in England, but they will work some Proteas magic, writes GRAEME POLLOCK.
The 2019 Cricket World Cup is going to be really absorbing as some of the key nations are starting to get their games on track. It’s been amazing to watch how the Australians miraculously managed to revive themselves just two months away from the World Cup.
Australia had no hesitation in including Steve Smith and David Warner in their World Cup squad, and I wonder if the other Aussie batsmen upped their game, perhaps knowing that these two key players will be joining them at the showpiece?
Despite being out of international cricket for a year, Australia couldn’t contemplate leaving Warner or Smith out of their World Cup squad. They’re too important to the cause. Warner is a formidable batsman who makes a big contribution to his team, while Smith has made a lot of runs across all formats, even though I’ve never felt he looks good technically. What counts is the fact that he keeps on churning out the runs, but he’s not a Virat Kohli or an AB de Villiers.
In terms of the Proteas squad for the World Cup, I believe it would have been better for the South African selectors to announce their squad a lot earlier. The batsmen, especially, could then have had more opportunities to play together in specific combinations and get some runs under their belt, rather than playing under the constant pressure of being in and out of the side every couple of games. Continuity is important in building a great and winning team spirit.
The Proteas’ bowling unit is formidable, and we have some quality batsmen in Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, in particular, both of whom are playing really well. It’s also good to see that Aiden Markram was backed after his phenomenal One-Day Cup performances.
I’m confident that the selectors made the right choice by picking Hashim Amla over Reeza Hendricks. I believe that in these situations it is wise to pick someone who has as much experience as Amla does. Class is permanent… although eventually it does start to run dry as you get older.
It’s a tricky time for a player because it is an extremely difficult thing to know when the time is right to hang up your boots. The public can be unforgiving if you leave too early, as many people felt was the case with AB’s retirement last year. But if you hang around too long and your form suffers, as has happened to many great players over the years, they can also get on your back.
But Amla’s experience alone will make a big difference at the World Cup, and great players have the ability to raise themselves for the big occasion. I hope he repays the selectors’ faith in him by putting in some big performances at the tournament.
As for the Proteas’ opponents, Pakistan are a tricky side, as they have such talented players, New Zealand are always competitive and West Indies seem to have suddenly found their winning spirit again after shocking England with the white ball.
The hosts, England, have been so competitive in white-ball cricket in recent times (aside from their recent blip against West Indies) and home-ground advantage will be a major boost for them in their bid for a maiden World Cup triumph.
However, I feel that India probably have the best side overall in white-ball and Test cricket, and Virat Kohli’s men are highly motivated and will be hard to beat, especially if he continues his incredible form with the bat.
Despite the strong competition that our boys will face in England, I believe they will work some Proteas magic.
It would be incredible for the country if Faf can lift the Cup in July, as the nation is struggling in so many ways and we need a boost to lift the mood and inject a massive dose of positivity to help South Africans face the future in a more celebratory mood.
– This article first appeared in SA Cricket magazine issue 144, now on sale