ICC T20 World Cup: Questions about Bavuma persist but South Africa eye maiden title

Azeem SiddiquiSports Editor

23rd Oct, 2021. 02:35 pm
ICC T20 World Cup: Questions about Bavuma persist but South Africa eye maiden title

South African cricketer, Temba Bavuma. Photo courtesy: Sky Sports

Proteas are placed in a Group 1 alongside Australia, England, and West Indies

South Africa have always been a fiercest competitor in white-ball cricket but some of their shine has faded after the departure of the big names like AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn.

The Proteas will enter the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup 2021 as one of the outsiders to lift the title.

The hosts of the inaugural edition of the competition are only one of the two big teams — the other one is New Zealand — who have not yet played the final of the marquee tournament.

The mega-event has not been a happy hunting ground for the Proteas where they have only made it to the semi-finals stage twice — in 2009 and 2014.

However, this time, the side will be hoping to go one better under the captaincy of Temba Bavuma.

In the form of Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock, David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen, the Proteas’ batting lineup is more than capable of posting a good total on the board and give the bowlers the breathing space they might need to put the opposition under pressure.

The bowling unit will undoubtedly be South Africa’s strength in the upcoming event where the pace attack looks formidable to say the least in the presence of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, and Anrich Nortje.

In the form of Tabraiz Shamsi Keshav Maharaj, the spin department looks well-drilled to cause any batting lineup trouble on slow and low pitches.

 

Strength:

The spin maestro:

South Africa is certainly blessed to have the services of the number one-ranked bowler in T20Is — Tabraiz Shamsi. The left-arm wrist-spinner has been exceptional with the ball in hand this year where he managed to claim 22 wickets at an average of 13.59 along with an outstanding economy-rate of just 5.64. While playing in Asia, Shamsi’s numbers has been nothing short of exceptional where in just nine matches, he bagged 14 scalps at an average of just 14 along with an economy-rate of 5.93. Those numbers prove that not only Shamsi has the ability to claim timely wickets but he can also contribute in controlling the run-rate. With the tournament being played in the UAE, South Africa’s team management will be hoping to see similar kind of performances from their star man throughout the competition. Shamsi has played 42 T20Is in his career where he has managed to claim 49 wickets at an average of 21.63 along with the economy-rate of 6.79.

 

Killer-Miller:

David Miller is being termed as one of the best finishers in white-ball cricket for quite some time now. He is by far the most experienced player in the squad and will be a key member if the side is to do well in the ICC T20 World Cup. Miller is in great form in 2021 where he has managed to score 333 runs in 12 innings at an average of 47.57 along with the strike-rate of 152.05. Those numbers prove that despite some lean performances in the recent past, the 32-year-old is still a force to be reckoned with in limited-overs cricket. However, the management will be hoping that the Peshawar Zalmi’s middle-order batter will have a decent outing in the UAE where in four innings, he is averaging just 23 at a strike-rate of 135.29. Miller has 90 T20I caps to date and has scored 1,742 runs at an average of 31.67 along with a strike rate of 140.82, which included one century and four half-centuries.

 

Dependable De Kock:

Quinton de Kock is being termed as one of the most dependable wicketkeeper-batter in the world of cricket. The left-hander has been instrumental in the team’s success over the years in limited-overs cricket. De Kock has been in exceptional form with the bat in hand in 2021 where he has managed to score 455 runs at an average of 56.87 along with the strike-rate of 135.82, which included five half-centuries in just 10 innings. The 28-year-old’s record while playing in Asia is very impressive as well where he is averaging 38.61 at a strike-rate of 127.99 after managing to score 695 runs in 22 innings, which included five half-centuries. However, the management will be hoping that De Kock will produce a much better show than his previous outings in the ICC T20 World Cup where he is averaging just 24.11 at a strike-rate of 126.16. The Mumbai Indians wicketkeeper-batter has played 57 T20Is for the Proteas where he has managed to score 1,758 runs at an average of 35.16 along with the strike-rate of 136.38, including 11 half-centuries.

 

Weakness:

Strange selection:

Team selection has been a big discussing point in South Africa’s cricketing circles for a long time and it is likely to be the same this year as well. The team selected for the mega-event lack the much-needed fire-power at the top of the order, something the likes of Janneman Malan would’ve provided. Despite having an average in excess of 90 in the ODIs and 31 in T20s, the right-hander could not take cement his spot in the 18-member squad which is a surprise considering some players were selected despite not producing the goods at the international level. Similarly, all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo, who has been a regular part of the Proteas’ white-ball team and spin all-rounder George Linde were only selected as the traveling reserves. Such decisions might come back to haunt them once the tournament’s main round start.

 

Captaincy dilemma:

Temba Bavuma has been around for a while in international cricket but despite representing South Africa for more than seven years, when he was named captain in 2021, it raised a lot of eye brows. The reason was not that the 31-year-old is a bad cricketer or has some problems individually, but it was more about whether he is equipped to be a part of the squad in a mega-event such as the ICC T20 World Cup. Under Bavuma’s captaincy, South Africa have managed to win six out of eight matches which must be a cause of satisfaction for the people who appointed him for the job but his batting numbers during those eight matches have been anything but satisfactory where he is averaging just over 20 with a strike-rate of less than 120. Those numbers are not worthy of a batter let alone a captain and therefore, having him in the playing XI means that someone deserving will have to miss out.

 

Rabada’s poor form

Kagiso Rabada is arguably one of the best fast-bowlers in the world of cricket across all formats. Ever since notable names have opted to either retire or not represent South Africa due to Koplak deal, the 26-year-old became even more important for the national team. However, his current bowling form will be a serious concern for the management, especially ahead of such an important event. In the last two years, Rabada’s average per wicket increased from 23.14 to 34 runs whereas his economy-rate also increased from 8.37 to 9.05. During the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, Rabada, who was representing Delhi Capitals, managed to claim 15 wickets in as many matches at an average of 30.40 and economy-rate of 8.14, considerably inferior to a lot of bowlers in the squad. With the T20 World Cup is set to be organised in the UAE where the second-leg of the IPL was played, South Africa will be hoping that their star fast-bowler will return to his very best.

 

Players to watch out for:

Dwaine Pretorius:

Dwaine Pretorius is a very under-rated cricketer and he has shown it time and again that he can deliver the goods when his team will need them the most. His selection over Phehlukwayo shows how much the Proteas team management rates him. The 32-year-old has already played 17 T20Is for South Africa where he has managed to score 169 runs at an average of 33.79 along with an impressive strike-rate of 165.68. With the ball in hand, Pretorius has 14 wickets to his name at an average of 24.78 along with an economy-rate of 8.06.

 

Rassie van der Dussen:

Rassie van der Dussen is perhaps the most under-rated batter in white-ball cricket. The 32-year-old has been a real sensation ever since making his debut for the Proteas back in 2018. Van der Dussen showcased his class in the warmup match against Pakistan where against a strong bowling lineup, he took his team home after playing a brilliant knock of 101 not out off just 51 balls, which included 10 fours and four sixes. The St Kitts and Nevis Patriots’ batsman has represented South Africa in 29 T20Is where he has managed to score 756 runs at an impressive average of 36 and strike-rate of 134.75, which included five half-centuries.

 

Anrich Nortje:

Anrich Nortje is slowly becoming a face of South Africa’s fast-bowling alongside Kagiso Rabada. The 27-year-old has been a real star in all forms of cricket ever since making his debut back in 2019. Nortje is coming in the competition on the back of an impressive IPL for Delhi Capitals where he finished with 12 wickets in just eight matches at an average of 15.58 and an incredible economy-rate of just 6.16. Those numbers is a testament of Nortje’s talent and South Africa’s team management will be hoping similar things from him in the ICC T20 World Cup. The Cape Town Blitz’s pacer has represented the Proteas in 11 T20Is where he has managed to claim nine wickets at an average of 32.22.

 

Recent form:

In the last two years, South Africa have had an average record where they won 13 and lost 14 in 27 outings. Surprisingly, in the last 24 months, all series wins of Proteas came away from home—in West Indies, Ireland and Sri Lanka—whereas they’ve lost all four series while playing at home.

 

What to expect?

South Africa’s record in the ICC T20 World Cup is far from impressive and looking at the team’s performances over the last two years, it will not be wise to back them to achieve great things.

However, in the recent past, things starting to look much better than what they had previously which should give the players and the coaching staff the much-needed belief of doing well in the competition.

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