The relationship between South African sports fans and the Proteas is a strange one. If the Proteas were your boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife, the scenario might look like this: You have an amazing relationship, you’re constantly traveling to exotic places around the world, ticking hundreds of things off your bucket list each year. You make each other laugh and are genuinely soul-mates. Then every four years, he / she proceeds to sleep with your worst enemy. The person you despise most on this planet… in this instance, probably an Australian.
While the Proteas are very often number one in the world, carrying the Test Mace around on their travels and often proudly sitting at the top of the One Day format, every four years when the World Cup rolls around our boys will shaft us. They’ll hurt me in a way that that no women ever could; in a way that makes me want to curl up in a dark room and cry for another four years. The cricket World Cup still eludes us. That trophy is to us what the football is to Charlie Brown. It’s basically gotten to the stage that IF we ever win it, it’ll be more of an “About time!” moment than a celebration. Can we win it this time?
Speaking with my cricket-brain hat on, I’d say no. Australia will be at home for this world cup, with 80 000 home fans going berserk for them every game. The 11 on the field will be playing for Phillip Hughes and wanting to lift the trophy for him. Add to that the fact that they have, arguably, the strongest side at the moment and I can’t see anyone else winning it.
Our boys will need loads of luck along the way, as all sides do. We’ll need to overcome some tough opposition that could potentially lift the trophy, such as Sri Lanka, India, Australia and even the West Indies. The West Indies are a tough side to predict – they either turn up on the day or they don’t, and if they do, they are very dangerous. It’s a question of whether they can turn up over and over again though, which I don’t think they can.
The Australian wickets will suit us better than our sub-continent opponents. We are in a group with the two most unpredictable teams in world cricket, Pakistan and the West Indies, and this could make things difficult for us. Zimbabwe, Ireland and UAE won’t cause us any problems, but if we lose to India, and then Pakistan and West Indies both turn up on the day we play them – we could face a top side in the quarter finals.
The first thing we need to decide is who our number one spinner for the tournament will be. Will it be Tahir, Phangiso, Peterson (who I actually think has huge Big Match Temperament), Piedt, or will we play a four prong pace attack with Duminy providing the spin option. Tahir will roll through sides like Ireland, UAE and Zimbabwe who don’t pick his googly every second ball. Sides like Australia, India and Pakistan though, may well take him to the cleaners. Will we play seven batters and four bowlers or will we play a genuine all-rounder like McClaren and bat him at seven? There seem to be more questions than answers at the moment.
What I do know is that a few key players need to bring their A games to the tournament if we are going to have a shot at winning it. If just five players have a good World Cup we can bring it home: Amla, AB, Miller, JP and Steyn. If they are fire, we’re unstoppable!
The opening batting slots are as secure as they have ever been with Amla and De Kock. They’re the perfect combination of aggression and maturity to bat the entire innings. At three it seems that Faf will call this position his for the foreseeable future, which I’m happy with.
At four there’s an issue: many people say AB should take the spot and I agree. We’ve tried a few others, but De Villiers is our best batsman and I say he needs to face as many balls as possible. If he goes up to four, five then becomes a problem. We’ve tried Miller and Behardien at five without success. It’s possibly too high for Miller and Behardien I just have no time for. How he’s been in the side for 16 ODIs averaging 22 is beyond me, and at 31 years old, I can no longer accept “he’s the future” as a reason.
If we’re talking the future, I’d prefer to see someone like Rilee Rossouw bat at five, eventually pushing up to three in the future. Then at six and seven, we can have JP and Miller. With these men as our top seven, I wouldn’t be as stressed as I currently feel watching the Proteas when we’re four wickets down.
At eight we can put Philander, nine we’ll have Steyn, 10, Abbott (fantastic death bowler) and Morkel can bat 11. This side just looks so balanced to me, and it means we bat down to nine (yes, I consider Steyn a batter – if we’re seven down in the world cup final, I want to see the biggest fighter we’ve had since Boucher coming out to bat).
We’d have four world class seam bowlers with Duminy to spin. You’ll notice I’ve left out Parnell with Behardien. They are not Protea standard for me. One player that I feel is unlucky to miss out is McClaren, purely because he can fulfill an all-rounder role for us. If he needs to play, he could either come in for Rossouw and push everyone up a spot, or he could be a straight swap for Philander. I’ve also left out Kagiso Rabada, who I think has a really bright future, but isn’t ready as yet. He’ll lead our attack in the 2019 World Cup.
Overall, I think that’s the side that would have the best chance of winning the world cup for us. It has experience, youth, big hitters, death bowlers, quick bowlers, a spinner and many classy batsmen.
And this is who I see us needing to beat along the way if we want to win it:
Group A Group B
Sri Lanka South Africa
New Zealand West Indies
Australia vs West Indies
Sri Lanka vs Pakistan
England vs South Africa
New Zealand v India
The remaining four teams would be:
We could face any two of these three sides on our way to glory. Can we do it? I’m not sure.
What do you think it’ll take for us to see a World Cup victory from the Proteas in 2015?