Cricket World Cup 2011
Van Wyk selection explained
Morne van Wyk (Gallo Images)
Mumbai - Although weather conditions were not Arctic in Mohali when South Africa played the Netherlands, they were enough to send a chill wind through the team management, leading to their surprise selection of Morne van Wyk as an extra batsman.
Conditions were decidedly English-like, with overnight rain, morning cloud, little patches of sunshine, and wind. And captain Graeme Smith has revealed that they were the prime motivation for strengthening the batting at the expense of off-spinner Johan Botha.
"It was cool weather, there'd been rain overnight. The pitch was very cold and there was always something in it for the bowlers. So our selection was based around just bringing in the extra batsman really, because we felt that would be of more benefit with the ball going around a bit in the morning.
"The unfortunate bowler was Botha because we felt we wanted spinners who turn the ball away from the bat and the Netherlands don't have any left-handed batsmen," Smith explained.
Leaving vice-captain Botha out, after his two key wickets against the West Indies, was surprising enough, but it was extremely odd that Lonwabo Tsotsobe, in such excellent form in limited-overs cricket, was once again excluded.
The left-arm paceman would have revelled in the conditions and the feeling is growing that the South African camp could well be hiding him, much as they did with Imran Tahir against India.
Tahir had another very good outing against the Dutch, quickly wrapping up the innings with three for 11 in 3.5 overs and Smith confirmed he would be looking to either Dale Steyn or Tahir to deal with tailenders.
"It's terrific to have wrist-spin or pace available to clean up the tail," Smith grinned.
Given how tricky conditions were for batting in the morning, South Africa did very well to reach 351 for five.
"We knew we had to get the basics right and AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla were able to build a terrific partnership. They also maintained the boundaries through the middle period, which was brilliant," Smith said.
JP Duminy's late assault then ensured there was no doubt South Africa would bring home the bacon as the left-hander lashed a dazzling 40 off 15 balls.
"JP was terrific, he played some incredible shots. There were one or two of them that, if I had been able to play them, I would retire right now," Smith said.
While the West Indies and the Netherlands gave South Africa a gentle incline with which to start their World Cup campaign, England on Sunday in Chennai and India in Nagpur next Saturday will be two mountains to climb.
Ireland and Bangladesh are two potential banana skins waiting further along the aisle.
"We've got two big games coming our way and it will be nice to have a bit of a run of games. If we carry on playing well, then we can get our confidence on a roll. But it's a long tournament and you can set yourself back if you start thinking 10 days in advance," the captain said.
Smith said mentally he and the team are in an outstanding place.
"I feel pretty relaxed and there's that same relaxed feeling throughout the whole group. There's good energy around the group."
Which is excellent news as the South Africans deal with the ever-increasing weight of expectation.