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IPL enough to get Proteas going at T20 World Cup, says Graeme Smith

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The T20 World Cup opening fixture is next week Sunday, when the US face Canada, with the Proteas kicking off their search for elusive ICC silverware a day later against Sri Lanka in New York.

Heinrich Klaasen has scored the most runs out of any South African during the current IPL. Photo: IANS

THE Indian Premier League (IPL) will have been a more than adequate hunting ground to help prepare the Proteas for their campaign in the coming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, starting next weekend in the United States and Caribbean, according to former captain Graeme Smith.

The tournament’s opening fixture is next week Sunday, when the US face Canada, with the Proteas kicking off their search for elusive ICC silverware a day later against Sri Lanka in New York.

It will be the first time since December last year that the first-choice players will gather for the format.

A Proteas squad made up of mostly fringe players is currently playing against the West Indies, having started a three-match T20I series at Sabina Park in Jamaica last night, which Smith believes will also play an important role in the World Cup preparations.

“A lot of our top players have been playing non-stop and highly-competitive cricket in the IPL,” Smith – the SA20 commissioner – observed this week at the induction of the SuperSport Industry Leaders Programme 2.0 in Westcliffe, Johannesburg.

SA20 commissioner and former Proteas captain Graeme Smith is confident that South Africa will be well prepared for the T20 World Cup. Photo: BackpagePix

“They should be match-fit. For the guys that haven’t been playing at that level, (the West Indies) is a good opportunity for them to expose themselves to a good contest of cricket, fans and also the Caribbean itself – the pitches, the outfield, everything… It does take a little bit of adapting to.

“It will be interesting to see how those conditions play out because generally they are very slow and tough to bat on. You’d think that a lot of our top batters that have been at the IPL in spin conditions will have some really good build-up.

“Also, if you look at the world game, it is so busy. So, to expose new players and develop a bigger talent pool, and have more players pushing for more places, is crucial to the long-term future of the game.”

Gerald Coetzee played 13 matches for the Mumbai Indians, collecting 11 wickets in the process during the current IPL. Photo: IANS

As pointed out by the South Africa cricketing great, there have been a bunch of Proteas involved in the IPL this season.

A handful could possibly contest the IPL play-off today, when the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals square off to decide who will play the Kolkata Knight Riders in Sunday’s final.

That includes World Cup-bound Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, Marco Jansen and Keshev Maharaj.

Nandré Burger, who is one of the travelling reserves for the World Cup, could also feature today.

Previously, Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortjé and Tristan Stubbs – all selected in the World Cup squad – enjoyed various degrees of success and game-time in the tournament.

The batters, in particular, have been well utilised, with both Klaasen and Stubbs playing 14 matches, while De Kock played 11 times, with Miller and Markram making nine appearances.

Klaasen will finish the tournament as the highest-scoring South African, having already compiled 413 runs at a strike-rate of 180.34 before today’s match, but that remains well short of Virat Kohli’s leading 741.

Moreover, what could be viewed as concerning is that De Kock, Miller and Markram only managed to score 659 runs in total.

The bowling unit, meanwhile, has been far more worrisome. Only Coetzee and Rabada were handed regular game time.

Nortjé played just seven matches, while Jansen and Maharaj were selected for three and two games during the competition respectively.

Cricket South Africa, meanwhile, manoeuvred the domestic T20 Challenge into a time slot that could increase the players’ exposure to the format.

That tournament was won by the Lions at the end of last month, exhibiting the irrepressible form of Ryan Rickleton and Reeza Hendricks of the Joburg-based team in the process, as well as keeping Tabraiz Shamsi of the Titans, Bjorn Fortuin of the Lions and the Dolphins’ Ottniel Baartman match-fit.

Along with Lungi Ngidi, who will act as a travelling reserve, that quintet are the only members of the team currently in the Caribbean who will participate in the coming World Cup.

Other than Sri Lanka, South Africa will also encounter Netherlands, Bangladesh and Nepal in Group C.

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