Photo: ICC Mediazone
Photo: ICC Mediazone
The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup is here.
On 30 May at 11:30, the South African economy will further grind to a halt as its citizens clamber round television sets, laptops and other mobile devises to witness the first step in the Proteas’ latest quest for World Cup glory.
Once again, the Proteas are among the bookies’ favourites to lift the trophy on 14 July, after hosts England, Kohli-powered India and those bloody Aussies.
After months of being subjected to unending reports of state capture, corruption and innumerable other soul-destroying news stories, South Africa is punch drunk. She is in need of a win. Handily, the Proteas are in prime position to deliver that win.
The Proteas will win the Cricket World Cup – yes, you read that right – and here’s why:
Every successful team enjoys the presence of a natural, standout leader. In Faf du Plessis, South Africa have one of the best going around.
Not only did Faf single-handedly pioneer slim-fit cricket clothing, but time and time again he has come to the fore in the face of adversity. He is true leader by example, always willing and able to back up his words with his performances.
Whatever the situation, Faf will bring what is required. Teammates being harassed by petulant Aussies? No worries mate, Faf will be there dressed in nothing more than a hand towel to ward them off.
The team staring down the barrel at 45 for 4 needing to bat for more than three sessions to save a Test match? That’s fine, Faf will block the s*** out of it to get his team over the line.
Added to these are his superhuman ability in the slips and his ability to manage the Proteas deadly bowling attack (more about them later) and you have the complete package. He also has a more than useful ODI average of 46.54. This man is key.
It is no secret that Ottis Gibson and the selection panel are banking heavily on South Africa’s much-vaunted seam attack.
And for good reason. If all its members are fully fit, it will be arguably the best pace attack on show at the World Cup.
Spearheading the attack will be 23-year-old Kagiso Rabada whose talent is without doubt. He is currently fifth in the ICC’s ODI bowlers’ ranking and his ability to send down some sweet chin music at searing speeds will give even the most seasoned batters many a sleepless night.
Rabada’s supporters-in-chief will be Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi. This World Cup will be Steyn’s limited overs swansong and his desire to lift the trophy – demonstrated by multiple comebacks from debilitating injuries – will guarantee several wide-eyed, vein-throbbing moments.
Previously written off in white ball cricket, Steyn has something to prove. Ngidi, very much the junior member of the attack, will also have a key part to play. His ODI numbers are something to behold. An average of 21.64 coupled with a strike rate of 24.3 illustrates his wicket-taking threat. Ngidi’s ability to bowl at the death could well be the difference maker for the Proteas.
Added to that potent bowling mix are Andile Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris. These bowling allrounders are both capable of swinging matches in their team’s favour by snaring important scalps at key times. Phehlukwayo’s fondness of high-pressure moments makes him particularly valuable given the Proteas’ past failings in this area.
This man’s unbridled passion for the Proteas and his ability to outfox world’s best batters with his deadly googly earn Imran Tahir his own place on this list.
Widely regarded as one of the best ever white ball spinners, his track record of running through tail-enders will be vital to South Africa’s success.
There is talk of a hotter, drier summer than usual on the cards in England and Wales this year and Tahir will certainly like the sound of that. If that is the case, expect to see this 40-year-old madman mesmerising many in the middle before galloping away, celebrating crazily like a much, much younger man.
Quinton de Kock does not have a Matric certificate. But, quite frankly, who the hell cares? If they were awarded, de Kock would possess a Masters in Cricket by now and be well on his way to earning a Doctorate.
Forget how he sounds in interviews, it’s the fact that the South African cricket hierarchy considers him a future captain that should be in focus. Quinton’s astute cricketing intelligence will be of priceless assistance to Faf du Plessis in the field as they look to build pressure on opposition batting line-ups.
De Kock also adopts a refreshing, fearless approach to batting which he has used to amass over four-and-a-half thousand ODI runs at an average of 45.56. His strike rate of 95.18 is fairly handy too. On his day, there aren’t many better and there is no reason why he couldn’t smash his way to a World Cup winning ton in the final.
Aidae Markram’s batting technique is exquisite. Despite not quite yet making his mark on ODI cricket, the man can bat. He is in a rich vein of form and will start the World Cup fresh off the back of a prosperous stint in the UK playing for county side Hampshire.
Markram posted four scores in excess of 50 in his seven Royal London One Day Cup matches, including 130 off 87 balls in his penultimate outing. It is not just Markram’s batting that will prove indispensable to the Proteas’ cause.
He became the first South African to win a Cricket World Cup when, in 2014, he hoisted the Under-19 trophy aloft. He has been there, done that and holds no scars from the senior side’s unsuccessful attempts. As a result, Markram will go into the tournament full of confidence. Confidence that, should it permeate the rest of the side, might just be enough to push them over the line.
This year’s Cricket World Cup will be a hard, long slog. The Proteas, like any side with ambitions to win the tournament will need some luck along the way. Should they enjoy the required rub of the green, expect Faf and his men to triumph at Lords on the 14 July.