Can SA win the cricket world cup?
High hopes for the new blood in the squad
The Proteas head to their eighth World Cup since readmission to global cricket at the end of May with as good a chance of winning as any of the lesser-fancied teams, such as Pakistan, Australia and the West Indies.
The two form ODI sides in world cricket at the moment are India and England (in that order), with the latter helped enormously by playing in front of home crowds. As it happens, SA play England in the tournament’s opening game and meet India (against whom they lost a home series last season) in their third. Those encounters will give them an early inkling of where they stand.
Two players, JP Duminy and Lungi Ngidi, who’ve made no impression this summer because of injury, will likely be back in the World Cup squad, with Duminy adding calm and experience to what has sometimes been a jittery middle order in the past 18 months.
Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks and Andile Phehlukwayo have all enhanced their claims this summer and should go to England — perhaps even at the expense of Hashim Amla, who lacks athleticism and drops more catches than an apricot tree drops fruit.
Van der Dussen has looked like a well-grooved package since narrowly missing out on a debut century in his first one-day game against Pakistan at St George’s Park last month, while Hendricks is a sublimely clean striker of the ball. Phehlukwayo is a smart bowler and might well be the answer to SA’s all-rounder agonies.
"He looks like an innocuous medium pacer," says Graeme Smith. "But he’s a clever bowler, with a fine range of slower balls, slower bouncers and knuckle balls."
This said, the Proteas have the ghosts of history to confront when it comes to World Cups. Their record, plainly put, is not good, and plays directly into what former national coach Eric Simons calls "our well-developed fear of failure".
This time round there will be no complaints about the schedule, which, though the tournament has one more participating side, harks back to the format of the 1992 tournament when nine teams competed.
Ten teams, including Bangladesh and Afghanistan, have qualified for the latest edition of the event; and each team plays every other team in the round-robin stage before the top four teams play in the semifinals. The day-time final is played at Lord’s on July 14.
The 1992 World Cup, co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, was a magical one for the newly returned Saffers, who were only denied a place in the final on a ludicrous run rule in their semifinal against England.
Let’s hope for one better this time round: a place in the final. Maybe we can even win it?