There was a time when I was a die-hard Proteas fan. Through all the ups and downs, the elation and agony, I was there cheering them on and trash talking the trash talkers. Then the fire inside of me flickered low and eventually went out. I couldn’t take the heartbreaks anymore, the emotional roller coasters or the missed opportunities. What becomes of a man who suffers such emotional scarring?
Does he support another team?
No, he just becomes objective.
That is where I find myself right now in my sporting life. Sure there is an element of ‘fan’ left in me but essentially I’m enjoying cricket at a whole new level with more neutral eyes. For the first time ever I’m in a position to write a fully objective preview about South Africa going into a major tournament, and will start off by objectively saying that the Proteas are probably going to win the ICC World T20!
I know, I know. They just lost to Australia, at home, and failed miserably in particular in defending decent totals with the ball. The points we need to look at though are that they have a balanced squad, they are experienced and pretty comfortable in Indian conditions (2-0 win against India last October in T20 series), they are a battle hardened unit, and I don’t think anyone can trump their hunger for success.
In fact, the series loss against Australia was probably the best thing for them as they sort of go into the tournament under the radar, with people expecting another choke.
Let's have relook at the SA World T20 squad:
Faf Du Plessis (captain), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton De Kock (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, David Wiese.
To suggest a perfect starting XI is a little impossible, as the team will always vary according to their rivals and the conditions. So to work out what is likely to take the field, the team should be seen in units:
Unit 1 (1-2): Hashim Amla, Quinton De Kock, AB de Villiers* (pick 2)
Unit 2 (3-4): AB de Villiers, Faf Du Plessis
Unit 3 (5-6): JP Duminy, Rilee Rossouw, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien (pick 2)
Unit 4 (7): David Wiese, Chris Morris (pick 1)
Unit 5 (8-9): Abbott, Steyn, Aaron Phangiso (pick 2)
Unit 6 (10-11): Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir
If De Villiers opens, Amla is likely to miss out, this then means an extra batsman from Unit 3 comes in.
Seems strange to think there could be no place for Amla, but the Proteas like the idea of AB de Villiers having the chance to face the bulk of the bowling, and partnering De Kock at the top. Personally, I think Amla should be in every Proteas team; his unbeaten 97 against Australia proves this.
His experience adds a great dimension at the top for dashers like De Kock and De Villiers to play around. A top-four of De Kock, Amla, De Villiers and Du Plessis is the money call for me, and from them, look for Du Plessis to be the pick of the bunch.
The next three in the batting lineup could be seen as a bit of a weakness. Miller is in good touch right now which is a major boost, but Duminy’s form is a big worry, and Rilee Rossouw still has some detractors at this level. Behardien is not an option for me, but if Rossouw keeps failing to kick on, South Africa’s least-rated cricketer could be in this team.
Then there is the role of the No seen batsman, one that will be contested by David Wiese and Chris Morris. Similar players in that they are both seamers who can wield the willow at the death but Morris has the edge here after showing great spunk recently against England.
Into the bowlers, and where South Africa need to impress after the Australia series. They failed to get the job done defending, but there are still some major positives here. Kagiso Rabada has only been around for 5 minutes but he is already a vital pillar in all formats for this team. He has sub-continent experience, and he doesn’t seem daunted by anything right now.
Dale Steyn is back and looked decent on his return against Australia. This sets up a head to head selection battle with Kyle Abbott, a Protea player who is becoming a solid performer in this format of the game.
This then leaves us with the spinners, and the deadliest prospect of them all, Imran Tahir. Despite taking some tap against the Aussies, his record in T20s is impressive, and together with Aaron Phangiso here is a spin duo that will really test any batting lineup.
The latter has had his troubles of late, but there is no doubting his (now legal again) abilities, and left-arm spinners always seem to do well in India. Throw in the odd over from Duminy, and Faf Du Plessis has an arsenal that should get this team deep into the tournament.
Since the departure of Graeme Smith, there really hasn’t been anyone else to do anything leadership wise with the needed conviction. Faf gets a good tune out of this side though, and could well go on to lead in the other formats after this tournament.
He is the perfect balance of cool head and star player, and has a feel for the most frenetic of formats that very few do. Sure there is always doubt over the Proteas’ mental strength when it comes to the crunch, but all things considered right now, these guys are your favourites with India.
If Leonardo DiCaprio can finally win an Oscar, the Proteas can win an ICC trophy.