It is difficult to pinpoint a player within the Proteas squad that I feel will definitely perform and be a consistent match-winner. Rilee Rossouw retains his place in the squad as an extra batsman and may be expected to open the innings in the event that Quinton De Kock is still unfit for the opening fixtures. For some, the announcement of the ICC Cricket World Cup squads rivals the actual tournament in terms sheer excitement and the wait for the unknown. The months leading up to the tournament sees members of the public and media making educated guesses as to what they believe the make-up of the squad will finally be.
For the South African public and media, the squad announcement for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 left very little by way of guesswork. The Proteas coaching staff and selection panel have been meticulously moulding and tweaking the squad for the past four years and have shown great selection consistency since Russell Domingo took over as Head Coach in May 2013. This consistency has not only been limited to the selection of the One-Day International squads, but also in that the Test and ODI squads mirror each other to a certain extent.
Prior to the squad announcement, the only real areas of uncertainty were around the reserve batsmen and whether or not the selectors would opt for the inclusion of an extra all-rounder or extra seam bowler. Rilee Rossouw retains his place in the squad as an extra batsman and may be expected to open the innings in the event that Quinton De Kock is still unfit for the opening fixtures. While Farhaan Behardien’s evolution into an all-rounder will continue as he would look to take over the mantle at Number 7 in the batting line-up and share the fifth-bowler duties with JP Duminy.
I feel the major selection poser would be whether to entrust Behardien and Duminy with ten overs between them or to sacrifice some batting depth and have Wayne Parnell in the Number 7 slot in order to minimise the risk. Much of this decision will depend on the type of surface they encounter and the selections may be horses for courses.
One of the challenges the selectors faced was that they were choosing one squad for two very different sets of conditions. The Proteas will play three pool games in New Zealand and have a potential quarter-final and semi-final there as well. The wickets in New Zealand are traditionally lower and slower than the faster-paced tracks of Australia. This is something the selectors would have taken into account when deciding on the final make-up of the squad and when looking ahead to that of their starting eleven.
It is difficult to pinpoint a player within the Proteas squad that I feel will definitely perform and be a consistent match-winner. Naturally, you would expect one of the squad members with prior tournament experience to step up in this regard. However, the mantra of the squad is one of togetherness and solidarity. This, in turn, has seen various squad members stand up, be counted, and turn in match-winning performances. Nevertheless, two areas of concern that still have not been ironed out are that of the ideal personnel to perform the death bowling duties and finish the run chases. There is no doubt that these issues will come to the fore during the course of the tournament and this is where match-winners will be made.
Russell Domingo said that there are five or six teams that can challenge for the trophy and he is absolutely correct. Although I believe that all teams are vulnerable to being upset by a minnow in the group stages, I anticipate Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, England, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa to make the quarter-finals. In the knockout stages, any of these eight teams is capable of beating the other on their day, but not all of these teams have the ability, stamina and consistency to win three consecutive high-pressured knockout fixtures.
In this regard, I believe that Australia and India are the biggest threats to the Proteas. Both these teams have shown big-match temperament in the past and both have maintained consistency in terms of results and selections. In each of the previous six ICC Cricket World Cups, I believe the Proteas have had a strong enough squad on paper to win the tournament and this year is no different. Whilst it is favourable to have a good run of form leading into a World Cup, history shows that this is in no way a prerequisite to win the tournament. I believe the Proteas will go deep and I maintain this view now that the squad has been announced.
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