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Tristan Stubbs of Delhi Capitals plays a shot during their 2024 Indian Premier League match against Lucknow Super Giants in Delhi last week. Picture: PANKAJ NANGIA/GETTY IMAGES
Tristan Stubbs of Delhi Capitals plays a shot during their 2024 Indian Premier League match against Lucknow Super Giants in Delhi last week. Picture: PANKAJ NANGIA/GETTY IMAGES

Ahead of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL), Tristan Stubbs was most likely still trying to secure a spot and earn a new contract for next year. 

As that tournament reaches its conclusion this week, and despite the Delhi Capitals missing out on a playoff berth, Stubbs’ future is virtually secured. In all the devastation wrought by batters in that tournament, Stubbs has been among the most destructive.

The 23-year-old has emerged from the competition with his reputation enhanced and as a result the Proteas go into the World Cup as one of the most feared teams in the tournament. The batting order could run from No.3 to No.6 like this: Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Stubbs. 

Stubbs, who showed the seriousness with which he wanted to approach his batting by making a hundred on a turning track for the SA A side in Sri Lanka last year, has shown plenty of confidence in the last 18 months. The IPL stage has provided proof it could be sustained at a high level in a pressure environment.

What has stood out besides how well he handled the pressure, was his versatility, where he batted from No.4 to No.7 in Delhi’s order, showing his patience and all-around scoring ability against pace and most impressively spin. 

Delhi’s strategy for Stubbs was to hold him back for the second half of the innings. He started 11 of his 13 innings for them after the 10th over.

Occasionally that was down to the success of their openers, most notably Stubbs’ new best mate, Jake Fraser-McGurk, but too often it seemed it was a preconceived plan and in doing that, they didn’t get the best out of the South African. 

Against Chennai, he made 54, having come in to bat at 33/4 in the fifth over. He stayed at the crease until the 15th, demonstrating an ability to bat for time and with power. 

The beauty of the position the Proteas have is it’s not just Stubbs of that middle order who can perform such a role. Klaasen is a master at it, as is Markram, who most likely will bat at No.3 at the World Cup. Miller, of course, lends the left-hand element to the mix. 

Klaasen’s not been as eye-catching in the second half of the IPL as he was in the first. His contributions remain better than useful, but he’s been overshadowed by the Sunrisers’ openers, Abishek Sharma and Travis Head. Nevertheless, the Sunrisers don’t get a chance in the opening eliminator on Tuesday against Kolkata Knight Riders without Klaasen’s contributions. 

It’s not the same for Markram. The Proteas skipper last played on April 28, which may not be such a bad thing in a World Cup context, though it may have scratched his confidence. His 199 runs scored at a strike rate of 130.92 don’t jump off the page but illustrate a steadiness that perhaps belies the bruising hitting that’s been the main feature of this year’s IPL. 

Miller’s was the same, though his overall affect for the Gujarat Titans was hampered by an ankle ailment that sidelined him for two weeks. He finished with 210 runs, with his strike rate of 151.07 a feature in a team that generally struggled with the bat. 

Even Quinton de Kock, who by reputation had a poor tournament, was still able to score three 50s, finish with an aggregate of 250 runs and at a strike rate of 134. 

With the ball there might be some understandable concerns for SA.

Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee and Anrich Nortjé, who are all in the main World Cup squad, were largely underwhelming. Between them they took 32 wickets, though they’d argue all of them had to do a lot of heavy lifting in squads low on bowling depth and playing with bowling teammates probably dizzy from all the ball-watching they did as the sixes flew.

Jansen, the SA20 player of the tournament, remember, feels like he’s been underutilised, while Keshav Maharaj went as a support bowler for Lucknow and ended up in the Rajasthan squad, but played in just two matches.

Proteas coach Rob Walter is not too worried about those players who have mostly warmed the bench.

“I know the guys are working incredibly hard. We touch base regularly,” he said.

“I’d love for them to be playing competitively, but there is a plus side to not playing all the time. Playing all 14 games in an IPL plus playoffs can also be draining. 

“So ultimately it's a balance. We are dealing, mostly, with highly experienced guys and I trust they will hit the ground running.”  

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