Squad review - South Africa

There will be no mention of the curse here

Squad review - South Africa

South Africa have a history of misery and despair at these tournaments. They exited the last T20 World Cup after a defeat against the Netherlands in the Super 12 stage of the tournament. No one needs me to remind them of that, but here I am.

Between the two World Cups, they played 11 T20Is against West Indies, Australia and India – winning just two matches and losing nine. They lost 3-0 against West Indies in May in the most recently concluded series, but they were without a lot of their stars.

They have made a few changes to their squad from the 2022 edition – Temba Bavuma, Rilee Rossouw, Lungi Ngidi, and Wayne Parnell miss out, while Ryan Rickelton, Gerald Coetzee, Ottneil Baartman and Bjorn Fortuin make it.

Marco Jansen came in as a replacement for Dwayne Pretorius in 2022, who was originally named in the squad. However, Pretorius also failed to make the cut this time. The other major exclusion was that of Rassie van der Dussen, who performed well in this season of the SA20.

Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks will be expected to open the innings. However, de Kock’s T20 form has been pretty patchy in recent times. He’s played in the IPL, SA20 and BBL after the ODI World Cup, but his strike rate has been hovering around 130. But according to coach Rob Walter, that is not a huge cause for concern.

Hendricks has done well in T20Is since the last T20 World Cup. But his performances this year in the SA20, PSL, and BPL have not been as impressive. He did relatively better in the CSA T20 challenge though. This is a steady opening partnership, rather than dramatic, but that is how they like it. 

South Africa also have a solid backup option in Ryan Rickelton, who was the highest run-getter in the SA20 earlier this year.

Skipper Aiden Markram is best suited to bat at number three. He has not had a very good IPL, but he has done well in T20Is since the last T20 World Cup. Heinrich Klaasen has been one of the best T20 batters in the world in recent times. He is certainly their best player of the turning ball in this format and is also very good against pace.

Tristan Stubbs and David Miller are South Africa’s most important batters at the death. Stubbs has been in excellent form in the ongoing IPL. Earlier in the year, he also had a great SA20. On the other hand, Miller has not quite been game-changing in a high-scoring season. He did not have a great SA20 either. Marco Jansen’s batting will also be crucial if he bats at number seven. And we know that love to try that. 

South Africa have several options to take the new ball, with a number of the seamers in the squad capable of bowling with it - Kagiso Rabada, Jansen, Coetzee and Baartman. It will depend on who is in the XI and how they want to structure their attack. For example, if South Africa feel like Rabada might be better deployed against a team’s middle-order and death overs batters, they could hold him back. 

Apart from the quicks, they also have spinners capable of bowling in the powerplay. Keshav Maharaj could do the job, as could Bjorn Fortuin, if he is picked. In the SA20, Fortuin bowled 23 of his 41 overs in the powerplay. If spin is required early on, even Markram can chip in with a couple of overs.

The third spinner in the squad, Tabraiz Shamsi, is expected to largely operate in the middle overs. South Africa’s best options at the death are Rabada and Coetzee. The latter has had a better IPL season than Nortje, who returned after an injury layoff. If Nortje starts in the playing XI, he will most likely have to bowl in that phase too. His death-bowling in the IPL came for a fair amount of stick, with 148 runs conceded in seven overs bowled in that phase. Baartman is another option that has been earmarked to bowl at the death if South Africa include him in the XI.

Walter praised Baartman’s development, in particular his excellent SA20 which was “a cut above the rest” at the death. Nandre Burger and Lungi Ngidi are the two injury reserves in their squad. 

A probable XI South Africa could field is: de Kock, Hendricks, Markram, Klaasen, Miller, Stubbs, Jansen, Maharaj, Coetzee or Nortje, Rabada and Shamsi. It is slightly bowling heavy, but none of their top six options can bowl apart from Markram. But this is what they love. 

They have a talented batting unit and a bowling attack that covers most bases on paper. But unlike Australia and England—or even South African sides of the past—they do not have much batting depth or bowling options. They have one side, and it needs to work. 

I like the certainty of this, but it also feels like the sort of inflexibility that often ends in teams being worked out and not winning important matches. That would never happen to South Africa, though, would it?

There will be no mention of the curse here.