PROTEAS’ 2019 WORLD CUP PREPARATION – COHESIVE OR DISJOINTED?

kagiso rabada proteas cricket world cup 2019
By Jonhenry Wilson

02 May 2019, by: Jonhenry Wilson

PROTEAS’ 2019 WORLD CUP PREPARATION – COHESIVE OR DISJOINTED?

The 15 South African players tasked with winning the World Cup in the United Kingdom later this year will go into the tournament on the back of participation in three different tournaments.

Whether individuals’ experience in the Indian Premier League, CSA T20 Challenge and county cricket totals collective success at the global showpiece in England and Wales remains in the balance.

The standout performers this and last month are certainly Kagiso Rabada and Aiden Markram. Rabada is the leading wicket-taker in the IPL – and key to the Delhi Capitals’ acquisition of a play-off berth. Markram, meanwhile, is enjoying a superb stretch of form for Hampshire in the One-Day Cup and County Championship.

Importantly, he is scoring runs in conditions the Proteas will experience at The Oval in London, Rose Bowl in Southampton and other venues at the World Cup later this year.

If ever there was doubt about Markram’s presence in the first-choice XI for World Cup’s opening fixture against England and beyond, 88s against Surrey and Middlesex have all but banked preference. What remains to defined, though, is his status as an opening partner to Quinton de Kock or a fellow middle-order cog alongside Faf du Plessis and company.

Rabada’s path among the priorities is entirely straightforward. He will effectively lead a pace attack that is navigating injury concerns for Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje and Dale Steyn. The former two are nursing pains sustained prior to the IPL – and the latter during. Rabada’s stay with the Capitals will extent to the end of the campaign, which isn’t sitting well with Proteas fans, who have been burnt by Steyn’s recent shoulder ailment.

Cricket South Africa convenor of selectors Linda Zondi has already spoken of a so-called ‘plan B’, which entails standbys for Steyn. Replacement value, if required, would probably go to Chris Morris or Junior Dala. Morris is currently involved in the IPL with the Capitals, too, while Dala has added to his success for the Titans in this season’s One-Day Cup with more chart-topping wickets in the CSA Challenge.

While Rassie van der Dussen, Andile Phehlukwayo and others prepare for the World Cup via the CSA T20 Challenge, de Kock and Imran Tahir are experiencing tougher challenges and opposition, in easier conditions, in India than in South Africa. Those variables aside, though, the formats are the same – but substantially shorter than the 50 overs per side awaiting all at the World Cup.

One could argue similar tactics and prowess extend across both forms of limited-overs competition, but a 50-over compilation is actually a significantly tougher challenger than a 20-over jaunt. All 15 Proteas, during the CSA T20 Challenge or IPL, must be mindful of this – and adjust, adapt and prepare accordingly.

Unlike India, who consistently field leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the same XI, the Proteas won’t force Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi’s tandem. It’s genuinely not feasible for a team that defaults to pace – and hasn’t been reared in subcontinental conditions.

Specialist batsman and frontline bowlers accounted for, the role of the important all-rounders is increasingly evidenced by the debates around Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and JP Duminy’s selections.

There largely isn’t going to be room for all three in one XI, leaving Phehlukwayo and Pretorius to effectively duke it out, as Duminy’s middle-order value and handy spin bowling can’t be overlooked.

Neither have enjoyed particularly special CSA T20 Challenge campaigns, though Pretorius has ostensibly snuck ahead in the pecking order with a few solid contributions with the bat. Phehlukwayo’s role as a later-order finisher didn’t produce great results in April. The Lions star, too, has a bit more pace with the ball than the Dolphins man. That’s not to say Phehlukwayo isn’t the rightful incumbent, but must be held to account by Pretorius’ performances.

While this 15 inspires greater confidence than some past World Cup squads, there isn’t complete support – emotionally and academically – for its composition. One such example is the selection of Hashim Amla, who impinged on the selectors’ hearts rather than heads. Heads said Reeza Hendricks, but hearts won.

When all is said and done, though, these are the 15 that will look to do the business. Despite the fickle nature of South Africa’s sporting public, there is no genuine use in debating who should or shouldn’t have made the trip.

What are your thoughts on the squad selected? For once it seems we’re not harping on questionable selections, and have a side with merit to support. Let us know your thoughts, and stay posted for more analysis leading up the start of the tournament

The Proteas are 9.00 to win the 2019 Cricket World Cup, with England and India vying for favouritism.

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