Can AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla alone carry South Africa to World Cup success?
There is no greater thrill in a World Cup than to follow the South African team. From the invincibility of the group stages to the appalling brain freeze in the knock-outs, they take their fans through every phase of human emotion. Even though the Proteas have played fewer World Cups than any top nation, they have seen the most drama: from the rain rule to the tied semi-final to the Duckworth-Lewis miscalculation – they have seen it all.
In 2015, a strong South African team approaches the World Cup as one of the favourites. The South African captain and No.1 ranked ODI batsman in the world, AB de Villiers has already claimed that his side will be the “team to beat” this time. Former Indian batsman Rahul Dravid has also backed the Proteas to reach the finals.
But then, South African teams and the tag of World Cup favourites have always been like two sides of a triangle with a bizarre, inglorious end to their campaign being the third. They have always had teams worthy enough to lift the trophy but have failed (I intentionally refrain from using the C-word here) repeatedly in run chases at crucial stages. Needless to say, despite being blessed with some of the most outstanding stroke makers in the world, South African batsmen have crumbled under pressure time and again.
Once again, the team has some batsmen that inspire awe.
In de Villiers and Hashim Amla, they have arguably the two best batsmen of this generation. South Africa will expect the 2 batting superstars to perform as per expectations and given the quality of these players, there is no reason why they shouldn’t.
Amla and de Villiers will need able support
South Africa’s success (or failure) in the tournament, however, will largely depend on how the other batsmen are able to support AB and Amla.
The first in the supporting cast will be Amla’s opening partner, Quinton de Kock. The 22-year old wicketkeeper-batsman has taken to international cricket like a duck to water. He is the joint fastest to 1000 ODI runs and has already scored six hundreds in his brief career. Back from his ankle injury, the baby face opener should be ready to continue his very successful opening partnership with Amla.
Despite his impressive numbers, de Kock’s biggest worry would be his poor recent performances. In his last 11 innings, de Kock has been dismissed in single digits as many as 6 times. To make matters worse, 3 of those have come in Australia and New Zealand.
The next name that would come to people’s minds is that of Faf du Plessis. After struggling in the lower order for close to 50 matches, Faf had his watershed year in ODIs in 2014. Unfortunately for Proteas fans, Faf, too, had a poor outing in Australia recently. AB’s best mate could manage only 97 runs in 5 innings at a paltry average of 19.
However, both de Kock and du Plessis have shown the ability to perform under pressure, and if they can support AB and Amla, the South Africans might just have the most enviable top four in the tournament.
South Africa’s problems become complex further down the order. While the experienced JP Duminy is coming out of a long injury lay-off and might be rusty, David Miller has failed to replicate his IPL and Ram Slam T20 Challenge heroics in national colours. Also, neither Farhaan Behardien nor Rilee Rossouw has looked competent at international level yet, making the tail look even longer than it actually is. Both Behardien and Rossouw average in the early twenties and neither has looked capable enough of posing a threat.
With an iffy middle order and a long tail, the South Africans would like to avoid a situation where even de Villiers’ genius might fail to save the day for them.