A key element will be finding an all-rounder – or better yet – two or three all-rounders who can firm up the lower/middle order with the bat and be relied on to bowl 10 overs
THE NEXT couple of years as far as the Proteas’ one-day team is concerned should be about building confidence, and that, as Mark Boucher stated recently, is done through winning. There are some structural elements that need to be created and cemented. Right now looking at the core of South Africa’s one-day outfit, it is possible to identify Quinton de Kock, the captain in the limited overs formats, Rassie van der Dussen in the middle order and Kagiso Rabada with the ball.
Obviously that is not enough to win a series, never mind a world cup. That core needs to be built and expanded, and a key element of it is finding an all-rounder – or better yet – two or three all-rounders who can firm up the lower/middle order with the bat and be relied on to bowl 10 overs.
South Africa would like to rely on Andile Phehlukwayo for one of those spots, but he is still a player who is searching for consistency. He has all the necessary physical elements and talent to thrive at the highest level and based on performances in the early stages of his domestic career for the Dolphins, the emotional and mental capacity to deal with pressure.
He just hasn’t shown it consistently at international level. The opposition don’t fear him and that is what South Africa needs out of Phehlukwayo.
And while the 24-year-old tries to impose himself on the national side, so others will be competing for places in that all-rounder role. Dwaine Pretorius has rejigged his bowling action in order to find some extra pace. Unfortunately it’s come at a cost, and he is out for up to four weeks with a hamstring injury.
Locally young Gerald Coetzee at the Knights is one worth keeping an eye on, as is 20-year-old Marco Jansen, currently at the Warriors. Sisanda Magala is another who the selectors remain desperate to call on, but they are also concerned about his fitness and more worryingly Magala’s desire to get fit and stay in shape.
Chris Morris remains on the radar, but until he gets a proper run in the side, it’s hard for him to make an impact.
Because the next 50-over World Cup will be in India, getting a spin bowling all-rounder into the squad will be crucial. George Linde of the Cape Cobras is going to be given a chance to stake a claim against England. His domestic statistics are good, and importantly he seems to be someone that enjoys any extra responsibility which a captain or coach may thrust upon him.
In 2011, Robin Peterson was one of the Proteas’ stand out players at the World Cup in the sub-continent, and Linde must be looking at performing a similar role for the 2023 event in India.
It’s been noticeable in the early stages of this season that Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi have played important roles with the bat for their respective franchises, that have gone beyond merely having a big swing towards the end of an innings.
Part of what makes England such a formidable limited overs side is that they play without fear and as far as their batting is concerned that is down to the depth they have in that department. If South Africa’s top and middle order can have the same level of confidence that the lower order can make an impact with the bat, it may influence the way they play.
Talk nowadays out of the Proteas camp is of being aggressive and smart, but not reckless – “we don’t want to be mavericks,” said Boucher.
Rassie van der Dussen gave an illustration of what that kind of game plan means for him as a batsman. “I’m all about the first 20 balls of my innings; I feel if I get to 20 balls then I’m set and I wasn’t worried about how many I’d scored. I was happy to have 10 off 20, but after discussions with Mark and then work that I’ve done with the Lions batting coach, Justin Sammons, I’m looking to be more aggressive with those first 20 balls, maybe trying to be 20 off 20.”
That is a small but significant shift in mindset for a player, and if Van der Dussen’s example is followed by others, South Africa will be an interesting team to watch in the next few years.
These kinds of changes take time, and alongside the changes, the Proteas need to keep winning to build the “feel good factor” once again for cricket in this country.
It’s asking a lot of the players; make a stance for social justice initiatives, inculcate a new team ethos, play a whole lot of cricket (which they will have to as they seek to catch up on the schedule) and do it all while hopping from one “bio secure bubble” to the next.
No one said it would be easy.