ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
World Cup 2011
South Africa promise but never deliver
February 16, 2011
The plain truth about South Africa is that, as a World Cup team, they add up to less than the sum of their parts. You would think a side blessed over the years with players of the calibre of Peter Kirsten, Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis, Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith - and a host of only slightly lesser lights - would come up with a trophy between them somehow, somewhere. You would, of course, be wrong.
South Africans have grown weary of trying to explain why their mighty team haven't won a World Cup, or even reached a final. The real answer is; there is no real answer. They have talent in abundance. Their skills are eminently world-class. The country's cricket infrastructure is acknowledged as the best in the game, and proven to be so by the country's unofficial status as the default standby hosts for ICC events.
It seems the problem lies either between the ears or in the heart, places even the best coaching struggles to penetrate effectively.
What of this World Cup? The inclusion in the squad of Pakistani-born legspinner Imran Tahir among three frontline slow bowlers suggests a change in approach. But we've seen this movie before - promising form leading up to the tournament, stellar individual performances, the gut feeling that this time it might be different ...
World Cup pedigree
Semi-finalists in 1992, 1999 and 2007; quarter-finalists in 1996; first-round casualties in 2003. Only once, in the World Cup they hosted no less, have South Africa failed to reach the second round. They have proved hard, competitive and ambitious. Just not hard, competitive and ambitious enough to go all the way.
Since Novemeber 2009, South Africa have played 26 one-day internationals and won 18 of them. However, Zimbabwe and West Indies, who 10 of those games were played against, did not make for very competitive opposition. Against the bigger boys - England, India and Pakistan - they lost half of the other 16. Among South Africa's victories were three in a five-match series against a Pakistan team desperate to show they took cricket seriously in the wake of the spot-fixing allegations. South Africa also hung tough to win the last two matches in a 3-2 series victory over India. Still, a success rate of 50% against credible opponents is not good enough.
Pat Symcox: "This is the best squad South Africa have ever sent to a World Cup, and the most balanced and experienced one. But our preparation has been predominantly concerned with ensuring the seam bowlers are ready for the tournament, when spin bowling will be more important given the conditions. However, if ever there was a time when South Africa will win the World Cup, this is it."
Where they're likely to finish
It's difficult to imagine South Africa not finding their way out of the first round. It's also difficult to imagine them progressing much further. They're vulnerable in any knockout situation.
To see fielding, South African style, is worth the price of admission to any match. They are lions and there will be blood. The same goes for South Africa's fast bowling - aggressive, relentless and disciplined. Their batting will be adventurous and enterprising as long as the pressure remains off. Once it's on, you would be forgiven for thinking the circus had come to town.
This will be Graeme Smith's last World Cup as South Africa's captain, and perhaps his last all told. He is a proud, determined, demonstrative man who readily embraces emotive ideas. The thought that he could go out in glorious fashion, leading the finest team never to have won a World Cup to triumph, is made for him. He will bully most of the seam bowlers he will face on the subcontinent's slow pitches, and he is much less clumsy against spin than he appears.
Unbelievable though it may seem, there was a time when Hashim Amla's suitability as a one-day batsman was openly questioned. As is his way, Amla didn't take issue with the doubters. He simply went out and proved them very wrong, scoring runs, runs and more runs. He scored them stylishly and lickety-split like, and he never seemed to fashion a crude or an ungrammatical stroke as he did so. In the process he rose to the top of the ICC's one-day batting rankings. Besides all that, he possesses that rarest of attributes for a South African: a cold mind.
Look into Johan Botha's eyes and you will see a journey from mediocre seamer to offspinner to chucker to nowhere man to rehabilitated offspinner to respected team man to South Africa's Twenty20 captain and Smith's natural successor to the one-day captaincy. South Africans expect their cricketers to be resilient, and Botha is an archetypical example. He will hang tough with the best at the World Cup.
Something special is required Colin Ingram - a name that is added to a list that features the likes of Desmond Haynes, Andy Flower and Dennis Amiss. Ingram delivered that specialness when he scored 124 against Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein in October. That made him the sixth player - Haynes, Flower and Amiss are among the first five - to score a century on one-day debut. Left-handed and level-headed despite his love of lusty strokeplay, he could set any innings alight.
Also: the fastest Indian to 50 wickets, and Yasir Shah's unwanted "double-hundred"