South Africa’s opening World Twenty20 match is against one of the favourites Sri Lanka and while the team isn’t weighed down by expectations, most fans will be quietly hoping the ‘c’ word doesn’t come into play this time.
Grouped with dark horses New Zealand apart from Sri Lanka, the Proteas will have a tough time progressing. There are a few players who could tip the scale in their favour and we’ve picked five of them with some help from their former wicket-keeper Mark Boucher.
SA's top scorers in World Twenty20
|AB de Villiers
Dale Steyn remains an injury concern, a strange thing for a man who was rarely troubled for the majority of his career. He bowled just 14 balls in a warm-up earlier this week and the South African medical team was seen giving him extra TLC.
His energy, pace and aggression has swung many games South Africa’s way. Although he has not played that many international Twenty20s, his value cannot be underestimated. In his 16 World T20 matches, he has taken a wicket every 17.4 balls and averages just under 18.
“The impact Dale has on proceedings is absolutely massive,” Boucher told Al Jazeera. “He’s the heart of the South African bowling attack and his variations are solid. Even in conditions which are fairly unkind to bowlers, he will still be important. He bowls fast, straight, can swing the ball and has done it all in these conditions.”
David Miller has been earmarked as a perfect T20 finisher.
With his motto of ‘if it’s in the V, it’s in the tree’ he has the potential to be South Africa’s Chris Gayle. By his own admission, he took a leaf from Matthew Hayden’s book when first learning his craft. While he has shown that potential at domestic level, he’s often been found wanting against international opposition.
He has, done very well on the subcontinent before - his 101* for the Kings XI Punjab being one of the most blistering knocks in cricketing memory.
“Miller has a huge role to play. What makes him even more important is that he's been very successful in the region. Between him and Albie Morkel, there are two players in the side who could take the team all the way.”
|Apart from scoring and taking wickets, it is Duminy's fielding ability that him an important player for South Africa [GALLO/GETTY]
JP Duminy has evolved into an all-round asset.
Although he still has to prove that he has batting BMT, his second role as a spinner is becoming increasingly useful in T20s. It gives captain Faf du Plessis an extra bowler to play with and use according to conditions.
With over 150 T20 games under his belt, Duminy is one of the most experienced players in the team with knowledge of the conditions. If cricketers were measured solely on stats, Duminy would rank pretty highly. He has a batting strike-rate of 122.2 and takes a wicket every 15.7 balls.
“Given his bowling ability, Duminy is a very big all-rounder in subcontinent conditions. If he has a great tournament then South Africa are better off for it. He is one of the more experienced players and South Africa will look to him to run the middle overs.”
AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers has, perhaps surprisingly, not been all that effective in T20 cricket.
If he comes in to bat early, he can lead the innings and help set it up
In other formats, his greatest strength is his adaptability – being able to read a game and adjust accordingly and that hasn’t been the case in T20 internationals. He averages just 21.4 in the 52 T20is he's played and has scored just four fifties, an average return for a batsman of his calibre.
Lately, de Villiers has been shuffled down the order, coming in at four or five to try and hit out.
“AB is the best batsman in the team and those players usually bat at number three. If he comes in to bat early, he can lead the innings and help set it up.”
Make all the jokes you like about Imran Tahir, when it comes to bowling – and taking wickets – in T20 cricket, Tahir does a pretty good job.
He made his T20 international debut last year but can be incredibly effective when conditions are in his favour. South Africa are up against some teams who are really good at playing spin, but they are also up against England.
Don’t be surprised if Tahir claims his career-best figures against Stuart Broad’s men.