ICC World Cup teams: High time South Africa gets rid of its 'chokers’ tag

Spin duo of Keshav Maharaj, Tabrez Shamsi may hold the aces in Indian conditions

South Africa's captain Temba Bavuma (back to camera, jersely number 11) takes a brief hiatus, leaving Aiden Markram to lead the squad in the warm-up matches
(photo: Cricket South Africa)
South Africa's captain Temba Bavuma (back to camera, jersely number 11) takes a brief hiatus, leaving Aiden Markram to lead the squad in the warm-up matches (photo: Cricket South Africa)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It’s not without reason that South Africa, which has historically produced so many greats of the game, has earned the dubious tag of 'chokers'.

Despite being a late entrant to the ICC World Cup in 1992, after coming back from a ban in international cricket, the team has made it to four semi-finals — without being able to cross the hurdle even once.  

What’s more, records say South Africa has won 60 per cent of the total ODIs it has played so far — and yet the World Cup has continued to elude the team.

The only time the country has won a major ICC white-ball event was the 1998 Champions Trophy under Hansie Cronje — but it’s been 25 years since then.

The 15-member party that has landed on the Indian shores is a balanced one under Temba Bavuma, but barring AB de Villiers, almost none of the pundits has kept them in their list of potential semi-finalists. The former South African captain and the original ‘Mr 360’ of world cricket has named India, England, Australia besides his own countrymen to finish in the top four.

However, Rob Walter, South Africa's men’s white-ball coach, says, “It’s great having a mix of experienced players and players who will be competing in their first 50-over World Cup — you get that sort of exuberance, of excitement to be doing something for the first time. Under the leadership of Temba and the senior group, I have the utmost faith that this squad will make South Africa proud.” 

The batting line-up looks strong on paper, with enough experience to tackle the Indian conditions in Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen. De Kock, the accomplished southpaw and IPL veteran, will be retiring from the ODI format after this event, and will certainly want to sign off in style. 

Kagiso Rabada will be leading the pace arsenal, which has Lungi Ngidi and an exciting new right-arm pacer in Gerald Coetzee, who made his international debut earlier this year. Rabada will, however, miss his partner-in-crime Anrich Nortje due to an injury, as the latter showed his express pace can cause quite a few problems even on Indian tracks.  

Given that the tournament is taking place in India, spinners are expected to play a key role. South Africa boasts two outstanding spinners in left-arm bowler Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi, who are well-equipped to excel in this role. Shamsi, a chinaman bowler, can bring in the X-factor to the Proteas’ attack, which has traditionally relied on speed.   

The South Africans, incidentally, will miss captain Bavuma for the two warm-up games, as he had to head home for personal reasons. He is expected to rejoin the squad in time for their opening Cup game against Sri Lanka in New Delhi on 7 October. Aiden Markram will lead the side in the two warm-up games against Afghanistan and New Zealand.  

South Africa squad: Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams. 

Best performance: Semi-finals in 1992, 1999, 2007, 2015 

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