The upcoming T20 World Cup presents the Proteas with yet another opportunity to try and win a world cup, but will the team, coaching staff and selectors do whatever it takes to win it? Over the years, the Proteas have gone from being tournament favourites to becoming one of those teams that nobody really cares about. This may be a good thing because it means the team can go into tournaments as underdogs and with fewer eyes on them, however being underdogs and having fewer eyes on you does not guarantee you any success. It is the teams that are most hungry that finish on top, but it starts with making the right decisions from the squad selection to starting XI.
South Africa has over the years, been guilty of not making the right decisions as far as squad selection is concerned and that was no different in the last T20i world cup. It might not be different in the upcoming world cup. If the recently concluded T20 series against India is anything to go by, there are several gaps that South African selectors need to fill before the world cup. At the moment it seems like the coach and selectors have a set XI that they are looking to focus on but as seen in the series against India, should something happen to one or two players in their set XI, the whole balance is completely affected. The balance of South Africa’s side completely fell off when Quinton de Kock had to miss out, this too after Aiden Markram had to sit out due to covid.
The selectors may have missed out on the opportunity to try out a few youngsters ahead of the world cup but that does not affect their options because there are experienced players they can look to. Someone like Tristan Stubbs, who is young and has done well in T20 tournaments at home did not get a chance to bat even though he featured in two matches. There are a few senior players that might strengthen the side if selected for the world cup.
Imran Tahir, easily one of the best white-ball spinners and definitely the best to represent South Africa is a must-have in any T20 squad. Imran retired from playing the 50 overs format but made himself available for T20s. It was shocking to see him not get selected even in the last T20i world cup. It is no doubt that Tabraiz Shamsi has done well after taking over from Imran and thus even making it to number 1 in the T20i rankings, however, having Imran Tahir in the side could also benefit him and other spinners in the side. Imran Tahir does not only bring his quality leg-spin to the team but brings a lot of experience and passion. Imran and Shamsi could complement each other very well in the attack. It was reported earlier this year that Imran has yet again made himself available for selection and is keen to represent South Africa in Australia. It continues to be a mystery why he was not picked in the last world cup, but the selectors and coaching staff have the opportunity to make better decisions this time. In 36 overs bowled by Imran Tahir in a T20 world cup, 8 wickets have fallen at an economy of just under 6RPO (5.94) and a best of 4 for 21.
Faf Du Plessis
Another shocking omission was former captain, Faf Du Plessis. Faf just like Imran Tahir had made himself available for selection in T20 cricket with the hope of being selected for the world cup but was not selected. In a struggling batting lineup, someone like Faf could prove valuable with the experience that he has as a batter and as well as a captain. Faf can bat anywhere in the top 4 and can play any role in the side. He is someone the selectors should be looking to in order to boost the team’s batting in a format that is generally won with the bat. Imran Tahir and Faf could really strengthen the side.
One name many people might not be happy to see is that of Rilee Rossouw. Regardless of how he left, Rilee has raised his hand up for selection and continues to do so by putting up the numbers. Rilee Rossouw has expressed his wishes to represent South Africa again. If the performances of Simon Harmer, Duanne Olivier, and Wayne Parnell are anything to go by, picking Rilee could do the team well. With 498 runs at 191 Strike rate and 275 runs at 167 strike rate in the T20 blast and PSL respectively, Rilee would walk into a lot of T20i playing elevens. South Africa’s batting line-up could do with Faf and Rilee if we consider how things went in the last T20 world cups. David Miller (133.33) and Aiden Markram (145.95) were the only batters to have a strike rate above 116.44 with the rest of the batters striking between 116.44 and 100 strike rates. The Proteas’ batting lineup has been struggling to score quickly and consistently, something that got the team knocked out of the world cup.
If the Proteas are to challenge for the world cup, some tough decisions will have to be made and some of those involve team selection. Rilee, Faf and Imran could be the 3 musketeers that the Proteas need to lift that T20 world cup trophy. One will hope that a lesson was learnt in India and that a stronger squad will be picked to cover all the basis. The next T20I series may very well be the best chance for the Proteas to recall these 3 players and see how they fit with the team ahead of the world cup.