The buzz word in South African cricketing circles these days is ‘New’.
A new captain in Temba Bavuma, who is leading his chargers in his first ever ICC T20 World Cup as a player and a leader. In certain aspects, a new coach also in Mark Boucher who despite being with this team since the end of 2019, is entering his first major ICC Tournament as the driving force behind the Proteas’ think tank.
Add to this, a new Protea team jersey that imbibes the various cultures of South Africa represented through the different colours on the predominant green. And when it comes to the off-field part of things, a new Independent Board handling the affairs at Cricket South Africa.
With everything new in the Protea system, one would surely expect a new beginning for this erstwhile cricketing powerhouse to spring a surprise and lay their hands on the elusive ICC trophy.
Having said this, make no mistake, the journey is not going to be easy in the upcoming T20 World Cup. South Africa is placed in the tougher of the two groups boasting giants like Australia, England and two-time former winners West Indies. Only two countries make the semi-final play-offs from each group so one certainly can’t be complacent.
Here are some arguments that could augur well for a Protea faithful to believe his team could ascend towards their inaugural crown.
South Africa’s recent form in T20Is has been encouraging
South Africa has shown the one word that has deserted them for far too long in major ICC Tournaments called purpose in their last three T20I series.
The Men in Green and Gold conquered West Indies away 3-2 in a closely fought series. They then clinically annihilated Ireland 3-0 in the British Isles.
The most encouraging feat was the domination of Sri Lanka in their own conditions recently as the Proteas thumped the Island Nation 3-0 at the R Premadasa stadium in Colombo.
In all three series excursions, the common factor which made the Proteas successful was purposeful cricket with the sole objective of winning at all costs. If this purpose continues in the T20 World Cup, South Africa can at least try to overcome their demons of faltering in major tournaments as one has seen earlier.
Keshav Maharaj Should Don The Role of Bowling Captain
The slow left-arm spinner from Durban has always been praised for his bowling exploits. In the recent series against Sri Lanka, the cricketing fraternity had another revelation of Maharaj also being a more than capable captain.
Bavuma unfortunately was injured again when the series began and the way Maharaj took over the role was worth every praise. His reading of match situations, the astute bowling changes were simply fantastic.
The Protea Management should surely consider anointing Maharaj as the unsaid bowling captain of the T20 side as he will not only marshal the bowlers well but will also serve as a major source of comfort for Temba Bavuma from a leadership perspective. In tense match situations, having a calm influence of Maharaj will certainly augur well for South Africa.
Aiden Markram Needs To Be The Catalyst To Reignite The Protea Fire
If one needs to be reminded of the capabilities of young Aiden Markram, the South African batter was instrumental in his country getting some ICC Silverware when he captained the Proteas to a U19 World Cup win back in 2014.
Ironically the World Cup then was also in UAE, the same country that is playing host to the upcoming T20 World Cup.
Certainly, a major reason if you are Markram, to shine in the upcoming edition also so that the senior team can get their hands on the elusive Trophy as was the case with a young South Africa side seven years back.
This being said, the tall right-handed batter has improved his game tremendously in sub-continental conditions as we saw with his phenomenal batting display scoring an impressive 69 runs in the three matches with a highest score of 48 at an impressive strike rate of 133.
Well, the talking point was not his batting but his off-breaks that made him the leading joint wicket-taker in the series with four impressive scalps along with compatriot Tabraiz Shamsi.
One would certainly expect Markram to continue with this form in the World Cup as he needs to be the catalyst to reignite the Protea fire in this tournament.
South Africa begin their journey in the tournament opener this Saturday against the mighty Australians. They’ll be keen to leave an imprint of quintessential Protean unflappability in every game they play, irrespective of the result. For truth is, world cricket doesn’t only need a strong West Indian team without whom the contours of cricket are hard to even imagine, but also a vibrant Protea side that can fire away.