Colin Bryden

No obvious World Cup winner

2011-01-19 09:48
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
Colin Bryden
My first reaction to the announcement of South Africa’s squad for the Cricket World Cup is that it doesn’t look like a winning combination.
First impressions, of course, are not definitive, but this is a squad - minus one immense player in Jacques Kallis - struggling to beat India, who are missing several key men, on home soil.
The side is short on all-rounders and if Colin Ingram bats at number seven, which is what selection convener Andrew Hudson stated at the team announcement, the playing XI will be short of bowling depth. The specialist batsmen and bowlers will need to be on top of their game and the fielding will need to be better than it has been lately.
There are none of the dashing lower-order hitters that used to make South African one-day teams so exciting and according to Hudson’s Ingram scenario there will only be room for four specialist bowlers, plus Jacques Kallis and presumably a few overs from the likes of JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis, who made such a promising debut in difficult circumstances at Newlands.
The good news is that the World Cup provides plenty of room for fine-tuning and adjustment of strategies.
All South Africa have to do in the first month, which promises to be a yawn-a-thon of many meaningless matches meandering across Asia, is to finish in the top four of a group which also includes India, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and the Netherlands.
The real World Cup is condensed into a frantic 11 days at the end, starting with the quarter-finals. Provided the Proteas beat Ireland, the Netherlands and at least one of the Test nations, they will be in the knock-out phase. After that the team that plays three good matches in a row will lift the trophy.
South African teams have tended to be inflexible in their approach to global events. I hope they will rotate their players during the group stage so that the eleven who go into the knock-out games are picked because they are in form rather than because their places were ordained more than a month earlier.
Two interesting statistics:
There are only four survivors – Graeme Smith, Kallis, AB de Villiers and Robin Peterson – from the 2007 campaign. The quest for new blood after multiple failures at big tournaments, most recently the Champions Trophy and the World Twenty20, has seen the door firmly closed on the likes of Mark Boucher, Herschelle Gibbs, Albie Morkel and Charl Langeveldt.
There are six players of colour, all picked entirely on merit, which suggests the policy of having seven such players in a 15-man squad has been discarded. This time every player knows he is there because the selectors genuinely believe he deserves his place. This has to be beneficial to team unity, unlike the situation with Roger Telemachus, who must have been painfully aware in 2007 that he was only there to make up the numbers.

Colin Bryden is a former cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times and current editor of the Mutual & Federal South African Cricket Annual.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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