South Africa has always been a fierce competitor in white-ball cricket, but their luster has dimmed since the departure of big names such as AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, and Dale Steyn.
The Proteas will be one of the outside bets to win the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup in 2021.
The hosts of the inaugural edition of the competition are only one of two major teams — the other being New Zealand — who have yet to compete in the marquee tournament’s final.
The mega-event has not been kind to the Proteas, who have only made it to the semi-finals stage twice — in 2009 and 2014.
However, under the captaincy of Temba Bavuma, the team will be hoping to go one better this time.
The Proteas’ batting lineup, which includes Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock, David Miller, and Rassie van der Dussen, is more than capable of putting up a good total and giving the bowlers the breathing space they may require to put the opposition under pressure.
The bowling unit will undoubtedly be South Africa’s strength in the upcoming event, where the pace attack, led by Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, and Anrich Nortje, looks formidable, to say the least. The spin department appears to be well-drilled in the form of Tabraiz Shamsi Keshav Maharaj, who is capable of causing trouble for any batting lineup on slow and low pitches.
The spin maestro:
South Africa is unquestionably fortunate to have the services of the world’s top-ranked T20I bowler, Tabraiz Shamsi. This year, the left-arm wrist-spinner has been outstanding with the ball in hand, taking 22 wickets at an average of 13.59 and an outstanding economy rate of 5.64. Shamsi’s numbers in Asia have been nothing short of exceptional, with 14 scalps at an average of 14 and an economy rate of 5.93 in just nine matches. Those figures show that Shamsi not only has the ability to take timely wickets, but he can also contribute to run-rate control. With the tournament being held in the United Arab Emirates, South Africa’s team management will be hoping for similar performances from their star player throughout the competition. Shamsi has played 42 T20Is in his career, claiming 49 wickets at an average of 21.63 and an economy rate of 6.79.
David Miller has long been regarded as one of the best finishers in white-ball cricket. He is by far the most experienced member of the squad and will be crucial to the team’s success in the ICC T20 World Cup. Miller has been in excellent form in 2021, scoring 333 runs in 12 innings at an average of 47.57 and a strike rate of 152.05. Those figures show that, despite some poor recent performances, the 32-year-old is still a force to be reckoned with in limited-overs cricket. However, the management will be hoping that Peshawar Zalmi’s middle-order batter has a good outing in the UAE, where he is averaging just 23 runs at a strike rate of 135.29. Miller has appeared in 90 T20Is and scored 1,742 runs at an average of 31.67 with a strike rate of 140.82, including one century and four half-centuries.
Dependable De Kock:
Quinton de Kock is regarded as one of cricket’s most dependable wicketkeeper-batters. The left-hander has been crucial to the team’s success in limited-overs cricket over the years. De Kock has been in exceptional form with the bat in 2021, scoring 455 runs at an average of 56.87 with a strike rate of 135.82, including five half-centuries in just 10 innings. The 28-year-record old’s in Asia is also very impressive, where he is averaging 38.61 with a strike rate of 127.99 after scoring 695 runs in 22 innings, including five half-centuries. However, the management will be hoping that De Kock can improve on his previous performances in the ICC T20 World Cup, where he is averaging just 24.11 with a strike rate of 126.16. The Mumbai Indians wicketkeeper-batter has played 57 T20Is for the Proteas, scoring 1,758 runs at an average of 35.16 and a strike rate of 136.38, with 11 half-centuries.
For a long time, team selection has been a hot topic in South African cricketing circles, and it is likely to be the same this year as well. The team chosen for the mega-event lacks much-needed firepower at the top of the order, which Janneman Malan would have provided. Despite having an ODI average of over 90 and a T20 average of 31, the right-hander was unable to cement his spot in the 18-man squad, which is surprising given that some players were selected despite not performing well at the international level. Similarly, all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo, a regular in the Proteas’ white-ball squad, and spin all-rounder George Linde were only named as traveling reserves. Such choices could come back to haunt them once the tournament’s main round begins.
Temba Bavuma has been around for a while in international cricket, but despite having represented South Africa for more than seven years, his appointment as captain in 2021 drew a lot of attention. The reason was not that the 31-year-old is a bad cricketer or has some personal issues, but rather whether he is prepared to be a part of the squad for a mega-event like the ICC T20 World Cup. South Africa has won six out of eight matches under Bavuma’s captaincy, which must be a source of satisfaction for those who appointed him, but his batting numbers during those eight matches have been anything but satisfactory, averaging just over 20. with a strike rate lower than 120 Those numbers are unworthy of a batter, let alone a captain, and his inclusion in the playing XI means that someone deserving must be left out.
Rabada’s poor form
Kagiso Rabada is widely regarded as one of the best fast bowlers in the world, across all formats. Since notable names have chosen to retire or not represent South Africa as a result of the Koplak deal, the 26-year-old has become even more important for the national team. However, his current bowling form will be a major concern for management, especially with such an important event approaching. Rabada’s average per wicket has risen from 23.14 to 34 runs in the last two years, while his economic rate has risen from 8.37 to 9.05. During the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, Rabada, who was representing Delhi Capitals, claimed 15 wickets in as many matches at an average of 30.40 and an economy rate of 8.14, which was significantly lower than many of the squad’s bowlers. South Africa will be hoping that their star fast-bowler can return to his best as the T20 World Cup is set to be held in the UAE, where the second leg of the IPL was played.
Players to watch out for:
Dwaine Pretorius is a very under-appreciated cricketer who has proven time and again that he can deliver when his team needs him the most. His selection over Phehlukwayo demonstrates how highly the Proteas management regards him. The 32-year-old has already played 17 T20Is for South Africa, scoring 169 runs at an average of 33.79 and striking at a strike rate of 165.68. Pretorius has 14 wickets at an average of 24.78 and an economy rate of 8.06 with the ball in his hands.
Rassie van der Dussen:
Rassie van der Dussen is one of white-ball cricket’s most underappreciated batters. Since making his Proteas debut in 2018, the 32-year-old has been a real sensation. Van der Dussen demonstrated his talent in a warm-up match against Pakistan, where he led his team to victory with a brilliant knock of 101 not out of 51 balls, including 10 fours and four sixes. St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman has played 29 T20Is for South Africa, scoring 756 runs at an impressive average of 36 and strike rate of 134.75, including five half-centuries.
Anrich Nortje, along with Kagiso Rabada, is gradually becoming a face of South Africa’s fast-bowling. Since making his debut in 2019, the 27-year-old has been a true star in all forms of cricket. Nortje enters the competition after an impressive IPL season with the Delhi Capitals, where he finished with 12 wickets in eight matches at an average of 15.58 and an incredible economy rate of 6.16. Those figures demonstrate Nortje’s talent, and South Africa’s team management will be hoping for similar results from him in the ICC T20 World Cup. The Cape Town Blitz pacer has represented the Proteas in 11 T20Is, taking nine wickets at an average of 32.22.
South Africa has an average record of 13 wins and 14 losses in 27 games over the last two years. Surprisingly, the Proteas have won all four series away from home in the last 24 months—in the West Indies, Ireland, and Sri Lanka—while losing all four series at home.
What to expect?
South Africa’s record in the ICC T20 World Cup is far from impressive, and based on the team’s performances over the last two years, it would be foolish to expect great things from them.
However, things have recently begun to look much better than they had previously, which should give the players and coaching staff the much-needed confidence that they will do well in the competition.