Proteas

Proteas: Can any good come from the IPL?

2019-03-18 07:45
Kagiso Rabada
Kagiso Rabada (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Following South Africa's commanding 5-0 ODI series win over Sri Lanka, it looks like the 15-man squad for this year's World Cup in England is all but finalised. 

There may be some uncertainty over the participation of Hashim Amla given his personal circumstances, but other than that there is a largely settled feel to this group of Proteas and there will not be many, if any, surprises when the World Cup traveling party is unveiled. 

There is, however, still a fair amount of cricket to get through between now and then. 

Three T20s against Sri Lanka are on the immediate horizon while, domestically, there is the Momentum One Day Cup and then the local T20 tournament to play. 

At the end of this week, though, cricket's most lucrative showpiece gets underway in the form of the 12th Indian Premier League (IPL)

There are no less than 12 South Africans taking part in this year's tournament, but only seven of them seem to be part of the World Cup plans. 

The IPL will run for almost two full months and the May 19 final takes place just 11 days before South Africa's World Cup opener against England at The Oval on May 30

Each IPL side plays 14 matches in the group stages, meaning that there is a lot of relentless travel around the country with sides playing two matches every week, on average. 

When one throws in the extreme Indian heat and the fact that players are constantly surrounded by the most fanatical, frenzied Indian supporters, it is easy to see why the tournament can be both physically and mentally draining for the players. 

They are compensated financially, but that won't help the Proteas at the World Cup. 

It is not all doom and gloom.

Anrich Nortje, who has been snapped up by Jacques Kallis' Kolkata Knight Riders, will benefit from bowling to some of the best batters and cleanest hitters in the world. 

Nortje has come into World Cup reckoning from almost out of the blue and, following a lengthy spell out with an ankle injury, has used his 4 ODIs against Sri Lanka to become the back-up speedster to Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi.

The IPL gives Nortje the perfect platform to solidify his World Cup place and show that he can bowl at the death - he was found wanting in that department against Sri Lanka - and in the opening powerplay. 

In the batting stocks, it will also not be the worst thing in the world for David Miller (Kings XI Punjab) to use the IPL to continue his good form. 

Miller seemed to bat within himself against Sri Lanka, taking his time at the crease, and the IPL could serve as a reminder of his ability to clear the ropes and change matches.

Skipper Faf du Plessis (Chennai Super Kings), meanwhile, is in seriously good ODI form and it is difficult to see how him playing in the IPL will benefit the Proteas at the World Cup. 

Du Plessis is the last man South Africa need injured or mentally strained, and one can only hope that the powers that be at the Super Kings allow him some time off. 

In a perfect world, Du Plessis would be spending these next few weeks finalising World Cup plans with Ottis Gibson and not travelling around India.

Undoubtedly the biggest worry from a South African perspective comes in the combined shape of Rabada (Delhi Capitals), Ngidi and spin ace Imran Tahir (both Chennai Super Kings). 

Those three names, with Steyn, will almost certainly spearhead the South African attack in England. With the Proteas game plan at the tournament centred around bowling teams out, the fitness and form of these three players is absolutely crucial. 

Injury troubles have already plagued Ngidi's World Cup preparations to an extent, but he was back to his fiery best against Sri Lanka and he looks in good shape. 

While he could probably do with more overs under the belt, Ngidi also needs to be preserved. Against Sri Lanka at Newlands on Saturday, he bowled just five overs before leaving the field with stiffness, suggesting that he is not completely out of the woods yet. 

At 39, Tahir has been fantastic for South Africa this summer and is one of the Proteas' major weapons going into the World Cup. His passion for the game means that he will always be up for a contest, but the Proteas brains trust would surely rather have him on ice between now and the World Cup.

Rabada is the biggest risk, having played all three formats for the Proteas this season.

An injury to Rabada would be simply catastrophic to South Africa's World Cup chances, and Du Plessis will be desperately hoping that the Delhi management understands that. 

He is key to any success the Proteas will have in England.

That leaves wicketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock, who has been signed by the Mumbai Indians. 

The concern here is that De Kock has been struggling slightly with a finger injury. With the Proteas planning on going to the World Cup without a specialist back-up wicketkeeper, De Kock's fitness becomes paramount. 

One of the most naturally destructive batsmen in world cricket, De Kock will be dangerous in that regard whether he plays in the IPL or not. 

But it is his wicketkeeping that needs to be on point when the World Cup comes around. Mumbai have 20-year-old Ishan Kishan and little-known Aditya Tare as the other wicketkeepers in their squad. 

While Kishan is a huge prospect, it is hard to see Mumbai leaving De Kock out very often, and that will make for some nervy times for Du Plessis and Gibson. 

As Du Plessis said after Saturday's Newlands ODI, not even he will be able to control who gets selected and who does not over the next few weeks.

"I am definitely not that powerful to the point where I can control the IPL," he said.

"It's been a very long season, especially for the guys who play all three formats for South Africa ... it won't be the end of the world if those guys don't play every single game."

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter …

Read more on:    proteas  |  ipl  |  kagiso rabada  |  cricket

 

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