Home Sport Cricket Here we go again – Proteas must ‘shift things’ due to IPL

Here we go again – Proteas must ‘shift things’ due to IPL

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When the IPL reaches the knock-out stages, a Proteas T20 team will be in action in a three-match series against the West Indies, meaning coach Rob Walter will most likely be without his big guns for those encounters.

(Left to right) South Africa’s captain Temba Bavuma, head coach Rob Walter and bowling coach Eric Simons attend a practice session on the eve of their 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup one-day international match against Sri Lanka at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on October 6, 2023. Picture: AFP

Ongama Gcwabe

THE 10-week-long Indian Premier League is set to get under way in a week’s time, with the final scheduled for May 25-26, which is more or less five days before the start of the T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies.

When the IPL reaches the knock-out stages, a Proteas T20 team will be in action in a three-match series against the West Indies, meaning coach Rob Walter will most likely be without his big guns for those encounters.

This promises to directly affect the team’s preparations for the showpiece event because ideally, like any coach, Walter would want to have his players in camp closer to the World Cup.

However, those are not the cards that Walter has been dealt, and he might have to readjust his plans and select new faces for the trip to the Caribbean, with the majority of those players not likely to make the World Cup squad.

“I’m sure the initial thinking around those three matches would have been to assemble a World Cup squad for them to play three matches together and be ready for the World Cup. But then the IPL blocks it, and the whole complexion of those games changes,” Walter told Independent Media in an exclusive interview.

“I think that’s the key message: We have to be flexible, and shift with the way things change. The guys who will play every (IPL) game will certainly have enough cricket under the belt.

“For them, it will be a matter of trying to refresh them quick enough so that they are raring to go.

“On the other hand, you might have someone who sits on the bench for 10 weeks, and that in itself is tiring.

“So, it’s just about seeing where each individual is case-by-case, trying to do the best for our players and make sure that we make the best decisions to have them ready.

“You also have to trust your guys who are playing a lot in the IPL that they will be ready to compete, and it’s not like it’s an inexperienced group of players, because they’ve played together before.

“The West Indies series and the World Cup could have two totally different squads, given that 15 (Proteas) players will be at the IPL. So, it’s a great test of our depth, but it’s also a great opportunity for the younger guys who are not at the IPL.”

Here at home, the Cricket SA T20 Challenge has seen three rounds of fixtures, with the fourth set to take place today.

The tournament gives Walter more time to examine the readiness of the domestic players for the three-match series in the Caribbean.

For some local players, such as Lions batters Ryan Rickelton and Rassie van der Dussen, their form in the T20 Challenge might even see them squeeze into the preliminary World Cup squad.

Both batters had impressive SA20 campaigns, with Rickelton topping the run-scorers’ list with 530 at an average of 58.88, with five half-centuries and three scores in the 90s.

Van der Dussen took his SA20 form – where he was sixth on the list with 328 runs, including a hundred and a 50 – to the Pakistan Super League, where he struck three half-centuries and a hundred in just seven innings.

Walter has hinted that he will be prioritising current form when he selects his World Cup preliminary squad, which works in favour of the two Lions batters.

However, the provisional deadline for the World Cup preliminary squads is May 1, with the teams able to make modifications until May 25 without the international Cricket Council’s sanction.

And this will give players such as Quinton de Kock, who has been off form in the format, an opportunity to solidify their spots in the Proteas T20 team in time for the World Cup.

“There’s still four weeks of the domestic competition and the Indian Premier League (before the squad deadline). The ideal is that you want guys in form going into the World Cup, because the competition is so short,” said Walter.

“In a 10-match 50-over World Cup, you can almost find your form in the competition – and in many ways, some guys can lose form in the competition.

“The T20 competition is very different: you have to hit the ground running. So, form going in is important.

“With the time-frames to select the preliminary squads, you’ll be doing some sort of judging on current form.

“You’ll be also assessing guys that are experienced, that you trust will find form over the month after announcing the preliminary squads. There’s plenty of factors that come into it.

“A number of months have passed since India, when we last played T20 cricket in December. And there’s been some guys who have delivered some great performances, and it’s been awesome to watch the cricket and see the standard of cricket that the guys are delivering. The World Cup, while it is a couple of months away, comes quickly, but I’m looking forward to assembling a group.

“I know that irrespective of the 15 names that are chosen, whoever they are will be quality cricketers and raring to deliver for the country.”

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