Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
4 minute read
22 Oct 2021
7:15 pm

T20 World Cup preview: The ‘good and the bad’ of the Proteas

Ken Borland

Mark Boucher's team have excellent spinners and are on a bit of a roll, but is there too much pressure on key batsman Quinton de Kock?

Coach Mark Boucher and key batsman Quinton de Kock have a big few weeks ahead of them at the T20 World Cup. Picture: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

The T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman gets underway on Saturday with the South African Proteas looking for a first title in the shortest format of the game.

It’s been a good build-up to the tournament for Mark Boucher’s team but, like always, there are reasons to be optimistic and reasons to be a little glum about the team’s chances.

Here The Citizen takes a look at why Boucher will be sleeping easy on the one hand, but also why he’ll be tossing and turning, on the other.

Reasons why Boucher is sleeping easy 

The middle-order batting is sorted

Batting in the subcontinent is easiest up front against the harder ball, so a strong middle-order is vital. It is also where South Africa have lost the most experience recently, with Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien all missing from the last T20 World Cup squad.

But Rassie van der Dussen scored a brilliant, match-winning, unbeaten century against Pakistan this week, showing how effective he is at accelerating after a somnolent start, Aiden Markram’s talent in white-ball cricket is starting to come through, and David Miller is in form and has played some rousing innings this year.

The Proteas have excellent spinners

Spinners are the dominant bowlers in T20 cricket these days, especially on the subcontinent. And South Africa have an excellent trio of left-arm slow bowlers to turn to.

The unorthodox Tabraiz Shamsi is having an exceptional year and is No 1 in the T20 rankings for good reason, controlling the middle overs superbly. Keshav Maharaj is pure class when it comes to control of pace and length and can bowl up front or in the middle overs, and Bjorn Fortuin has made his mark in the powerplay and has a fine record of 14 wickets in 13 T20 internationals and an economy rate of just 6.58.

Proteas have an excellent pressure game

The favourites for this World Cup – England, India and the West Indies – have not been shy to advertise their intent to aim for complete dominance with the bat, smashing as many boundaries as possible. But on sluggish, increasingly tired pitches, this could also get them into trouble.

The Proteas – a bit like the Springboks – have shown that they are very good at playing a pressure game. As the win in the West Indies showed, a team that just chases boundaries and does not look after the ones and twos, can implode against the strangling South African attack and their sharp fielding.

Why Boucher is tossing & turning at night 

Previous World Cup selection dramas

There has been choking and there has been some unfortunate tomfoolery when it comes to selection at these premier cricket events in the past and Boucher, as a veteran of several of these campaigns as a player, will be keenly aware of those.

Given that South Africa are underdogs at this tournament, they will need to be at their best and there is little room for error if they are to contend for the title.

There could well be crucial selections that need to be made, such as when it comes to the bowling attack: If the Proteas are to continue to play both Shamsi and Maharaj, then only two of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi will be able to play. 

Do Proteas have a false sense of their own ability?

The Proteas certainly seem to be peaking at the right time, beating Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Ireland and the West Indies on their way to the World Cup.

The ease with which they dispatched Sri Lanka in a series at home was particularly impressive, but the West Indies and Pakistan are both famously inconsistent. South Africa are yet to play one of the big guns during their winning run of the last few months.

Is there too much pressure on Quinton de Kock?

It is almost certain that if the Proteas are to challenge for the title then Quinton de Kock, their leading batsman, is going to have to have a great tournament. De Kock only passed 50 once in the second leg of the IPL and, by the end of their campaign was being left out of the Mumbai Indians starting XI. But his pedigree is undoubted.

The only thing maybe holding him back from his usual daring self is the sometimes fragile nature of the Proteas batting. Hopefully he can put those worries aside and be the dominator we know he can be.