WHEN you’re spearheaded by the premium quality of Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock, make no mistake that a World Cup crown is within your grasp.
Throw in returning young star Lungi Ngidi and at the
opposite end of the age-scale old campaigners Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and Imran
Tahir, and it is no surprise to hear the Proteas are many people’s dark horses.
India, England and defending champions Australia are clearly
the favourites but there is more than enough talent in the South African ranks
for observers to remark, “If they can just put it all together…”
The question, as always, is will they?
Much of the talk in the South Africa camp in the build-up
has been of enjoying the tournament and ignoring the pressure, which has
crippled star Proteas squads in editions past.
In the midst of preparation for their opener against
England, skipper Du Plessis addressed the issue: “In previous World Cups we wanted to do Superman
“We thought we had to be more special, we had to do
something more than we usually do, and we did not do what was good enough
“We haven’t always got that right in the past, to play our
best cricket at the World Cup, because we put so much pressure on ourselves. We
want to just focus on enjoying our cricket.
“There’s a reason why we want the guys to play freely,
because we don’t want them to have a fear of failure, which is what the World
Cup is for some of them.
“Our success in England over the next couple of months depends on how well we release that aspect of our play, we need that for the team to be at our best. Each player needs to find out his own strengths.”
Alongside the pressure that a World Cup brings, Du Plessis and
coach Ottis Gibson also need to find a settled formula.
The great AB de Villiers has called it a day and there are
still question marks at the top of the order where late bloomer Rassie van der
Dussen and Hampshire’s Aiden Markram need to prove they are here to stay.
In the all-rounder slots, Andile Phehlukwayo leads the way
but has not nailed his spot down with Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius chasing
JP Duminy’s long-awaited injury return will be a boost while
the loss of Duanne Olivier will be tempered by the return of 23-year-old Ngidi,
claimer of 26 scalps in his first full year of ODI cricket.
The ingredients are there but whether the right blend can be mixed is the question, much still needs to click into place if the class of 2019 are to succeed where their forebears have succumbed.
RICHARD DORE / Photo: Getty Images