The Proteas’ 15-man squad will depart for the World Cup in Australasia this week. They are scheduled to play two warm-up matches next week, both in Christchurch, before starting their campaign proper against Zimbabwe in Hamilton. In total, South Africa will play three of their Pool B matches in New Zealand, and three in Australia.
The conditions in Australia are very similar to those in South Africa. The wickets are quicker, and while there is usually something in the pitches for the bowlers, it does help the batsmen to have the ball coming onto the bat.
New Zealand is very different, and the slow, low, nature of the tracks take some getting used to. It’s fair to say that the Proteas will find the conditions in New Zealand more challenging than those in Australia.
Some have suggested that the best way to combat the varying conditions is by adopting a horses for courses selection strategy. My feeling is that the Proteas don’t have sufficient quality in depth to do so, and that they must consistently back the best XI in the current squad.
I wrote last week that Quinton de Kock should resume his role at the top of the batting order, and that Rilee Rossouw must slide down to No 7. I believe that a batting line-up of seven specialist batsmen is the way to go, and that the Proteas have sufficient bowling options if off-spinner JP Duminy is allowed to complete 10 overs.
South Africa may need to adapt their strategy according to the conditions in each group match, but I would like to see the same XI featuring in every game. And if the Proteas need a sixth bowling option, perhaps Faf du Plessis can contribute several overs a match with his leg-spinners.
Fahraan Behardien picked up a few wickets in the recent ODI series against the West Indies, but was very disappointing with the bat. I like the look of a Proteas middle order that features Duminy, David Miller, and Rossouw at Nos 5, 6, and 7. That’s a batting lineup that would give any team confidence. And it’s not as if Behardien has done anything remarkable with the ball to demand a place in the Proteas’ best XI.
South Africa impressed in the series against the West Indies, and must look to carry that momentum through to the group stages of the World Cup. I would hope that the best starting XI is backed in the two warm-up matches next week. These games will give the bulk of the side an opportunity to adapt to the conditions, and an individual like De Kock, who only recently returned from injury, will have a chance to find some form.
The Proteas must also use those two games in Christchurch to see what Duminy and Du Plessis can offer on the bowling front. Duminy should be backed to bowl a full quota of 10 overs, but it would certainly help to know that Du Plessis can chip in with three or four overs, especially on the slower wickets in New Zealand.
Graeme Pollock played 23 Tests for South Africa, scoring 2256 runs at an average (60.97) that remains second only to Don Bradman’s. He was voted South Africa’s Player of the 20th century in 1999, and inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009.
Due to a series of health problems that have impacted on his financial position, Pollock is now reaching out to fans in hope of some support. If you are able to contribute to his Trust in any way, please do not hesitate to call his agent Basil O’Hagan on 083 4124459 or make a deposit, however small, to the following Trust Fund.
Name of Account Holder: Rudolf Buys & Associates Trust
Name of Bank: Standard Bank
Account Number: 281 464 359
Branch: Fourways Crossing
Branch Code: 009 953
Type of Account: Trust Account
Ref: Mr G Pollock