ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

World Cup 2011

South Africa promise but never deliver

Telford Vice

February 16, 2011

Comments: 55 | Text size: A | A

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.

Recent form

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.

Expert eye

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.

Key Players

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.

Telford Vice is a freelance cricket writer in South Africa

RSS Feeds: Telford Vice


Comments: 55 
. Your ESPN name '' will be used to display your comments. Please click here to edit this.
Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by Mark on (February 18, 2011, 10:25 GMT)

And for the good and the bad- who can forget Hansie Cronje....one of ODI's best captains...and Gary Kirsten.....and there are many more so 'lesser lights' that were very good...poor article...

Posted by Harsh on (February 17, 2011, 18:56 GMT)

Let us all hope that history sides with South Africa,historically the best team to have not won the World Cup and the unluckiest.Without doubt they were the best team in 1996 and 1999 and close to the top in 1992 and 2003.At their peak South Africa has been one of the best one day teams dispalying phenomenal consistency with their great batting depth and allrounders.No team has so repeatedly choked under pressure ,but for which they surely would have captured the coveted crown in 1999.They lacked the killer instinct,so needed to win.However this time they seem to be prepared to overcome their past jinx as this team has superior temperament and mental preparedness,if not better quality to the past great sides.It has great batting with 4 batsmen averaging above 50 in the last year,talented allrounders and a quality attack,with Dale Steyn the champion paceman of our era.Above all they have an outstanding leader in Graeme Smith,and arguably the best cricketer of modern times,Jacques Kallis

Posted by Scott on (February 17, 2011, 17:55 GMT)

Very disappointing article: no mention of Klusener? Please ask someone who knows South African cricket to pontificate on the merits and demerits of South Africa's World Cup woes.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 17, 2011, 14:18 GMT)

Yes the Current Soth African Squad are not as strong as their Prvious side parcticipate innthe World cups,They dont have Big hitters and game changers like Mark Boucher,Lance Klusener,Shaun Pollock in lower down the Order,Dale Styen and Jaque Kaliis are the only one who can be claimed as World classWhile in Previous World cup they had class perforemer lke Allan Donald,Pollock,Ntini,?Rhodes etc.Stilll The current African team will have potential to be knocked out in knock out round again

Posted by diren on (February 17, 2011, 11:35 GMT)

The 1999 WC was the best ever WC because of 1 man... Lance Klusner!!!! He entertained us like never before and never will we see that again from anyone. Pathan, Afridi and Razzaq dont even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Klusner! Klusner was way better and captured the publics heart even up to today. Many people from around the world only started watching cricket because of Klusner....i was one of them

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 17, 2011, 10:31 GMT)

S.Afr are definitely goin to choke again...LOL

Posted by saumitra on (February 17, 2011, 9:15 GMT)

@Koushik Podder , BAN is not winning a single match against any test playing side this WC, forget about beating SA, I would be extremely surprised if BAN beats WI

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 17, 2011, 7:37 GMT)

I must agree with Amol_Ins_SA:

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???

The 1st name I would mention here is Lance Klusener!!

Maybe the reason they did not mention him is because he was in fact the only player of caliber that perform during the WC1999. If we had just 1 player that could stick with him that year the cup was ours.

That left aside, who are our biggest hitters this year? Sure, the team looks good and well balanced, but I miss top all-rounders and big hitters like a Klusener, Albi Morkel or Justin Kemp?

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 17, 2011, 7:09 GMT)

symcox is joking this, (like klempie said) this is the worst SA squad ever to play in the WC. they have 5 batsmen nd 10 tailenders. apart from steyn every1 will flounder. and smith is a way too simple captain who gets clueless when things doesn't go to plan. he doesn't have any alternative plans. and abt tahir he will just b another paul adams in 1996 wc. they can't play in spin tracks.e.g sachin's 200, bangladesh beating them in the slowest pitch in carribean. and they'll lose when every game is close contested i.e india winning by 1 run, abdul razzaq match winning 100. even betting on my country bangladesh is safer as they ll reach QF at their xpense if they can

Posted by Sunil on (February 17, 2011, 7:08 GMT)

Inspite of boasting of a supremely talented side,its unfair to label this the best ever.For some reason the cloak of vulnerability seems to hang on their shoulders.They definitely lack the sublime skills of a Pollock,the quicksilver reflexes of a Rhodes,the bludgeoning ability of a Kluesner,and the great Donald.I think making De Villiers keep wickets will diminish his batting skills.and in a toss up Duminy inconsistent though he may be batting wise could turn out to be cannon fodder for batsmen.All this would mean too much of a load on Kallis,and Amla to deliver consistently.Just hope they have one person in the squad with the qualifications to decipher the Duckworth Lewis method!!!

Email Feedback Print
Telford ViceClose
Telford Vice Telford Vice, crash-boom-out left-hand bat, sort-of legspinner, was never sure whether he was a cricket person. He thought he might be when he sidestepped a broken laptop and an utter dearth of experience to cover South Africa's first Test match in 22 years in Barbados in 1992. When he managed to complete Peter Kirsten's biography as well as retain what he calls his sanity, he pondered the question again. Similarly, when he made it through the 2007 World Cup - all of it, including the warm-up matches - his case for belonging to cricket's family felt stronger. But it was only when the World Twenty20 exploded gloriously into his life in 2007 that he knew he actually wanted to be a cricket person. Sort of ...
News | Features Last 3 days
  • No stories yet
News | Features Last 3 days
  • No stories yet

World Cup Videos