Just under a year remains until the 2020 T20 World Cup gets under way in Australia, with the 12 top teams set to battle it out for the grand prize Down Under.
The premier international sides have already shifted their focus to the shortest format of the game with the next 12 months set to afford them ample time to get their T20 combinations right.
As we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the major contenders for the 2020 tournament, it is now time to turn our attention towards South Africa. Click here to read about the other leading contenders for the tournament.
When it comes to the Proteas, the first thought that comes to mind is their propensity to slip up in major ICC tournaments, with the ‘choker’ tag beside their name still bearing heavy. While their slip-ups at the crux stages of the 50-over World Cup are all too well known, they haven’t really fared any better in the 20-over format competition.
South Africa are yet to make the final of a T20 World Cup in eight appearances, with two semi-final exits being their best showing so far in the competition. Their Test side is currently reeling from the retirements of big names and the ODI outfit has suffered equally due to that. They had a dismal 2019 World Cup campaign in England with Faf du Plessis and his men finishing a lowly seventh.
However, their T20 fortunes have been much better, with the Proteas currently unbeaten in their five most recent series. They are also ranked fourth in the ICC T20I rankings, with only Pakistan, Australia and England ahead of them.
In Quinton de Kock, du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller, South Africa have one of the most solid and reliable T20 batting units in the business. While de Kock and Miller provide the explosiveness, du Plessis and van der Dussen can occupy the crease for large periods while also scoring at a fair clip.
South Africa’s regulars have always been permanent fixtures in the Indian Premier League, and that has helped them immensely in keeping sharp in the format. They now have their own T20 franchise league in the form of Mzansi Super League as well, and it has been instrumental in throwing up new talent for the international set-up.
While Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje are a potent pace unit, the retirement of Imran Tahir has left a gaping hole in their spin attack. The veteran leg-spinner was one of the key performers for the Proteas in the limited-overs formats, and his excellent control and guile will be sorely missed.
Tabraiz Shamsi does provide an alternative leg-spin option, but the 29-year-old lacks the same control as Tahir and can be extremely expensive on his day.
Left-armed spinner Bjorn Fortuin has recently been introduced at the international level but he needs some time to find his feet after initially impressing in the Mzansi Super League.
What they need to do in the next 12 months
South Africa axed their coaching contingent after the failed 2019 World Cup campaign and it has been team director Enoch Nkwe who has managed the side on an interim basis ever since. The first step they need to take, is to bring some clarity about the coaching structure going forward and make a permanent appointment soon.
Secondly, they will want to establish a formidable spin contingent in the next year and they might need to give a shot to several players to find the right combination. The likes of Fortuin, George Linde and Senuran Muthusamy are at their disposal currently and they need to quickly find the right man among them.
Remarkably, the Proteas are scheduled to play only six T20Is before they embark on their 2020 World Cup campaign. Those clashes are against fellow contenders England and Australia, which is a good thing at least.
As such, the franchise T20 leagues such as IPL, Mzansi Super League, BBL and the CPL assume greater significance for their players and they will need to use them as a springboard for the World Cup.
Key man – Quinton de Kock
The wicketkeeper batsman is the heartbeat of the Proteas with the team generally doing well whenever he fires. He possesses the capability of getting the side off to an electric start in the powerplay and his most recent T20 series outings against India also showed some frightening consistency in playing the long innings.
The southpaw has the experience of 169 T20s under his belt, managing to register four tons while collecting his runs at a strike-rate of more than 136.
Strong on either side of the wicket, de Kock will most definitely be the man South Africa will look to for inspiration in Australia.
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