England in South Africa 2015-16 February 16, 2016

Allrounders could give SA some T20 bite


David Wiese will have an important role to play in the South Africa T20 side © Getty Images

The South African squad have overcome being thrown to the wolves after they came back from 2-0 down in their ODI series against England to win 3-2, so now, they are diving with the sharks.

The T20 squad are camping in Hermanus, the whale-watching town about 100 kilometres from Cape Town, in preparation for their five home T20Is and the upcoming T20 World Cup. Just as they kicked off their campaign to become the No.1 Test team in 2012 with an expedition to the Swiss Alps, they have thought of another out-of-the-box experience for team bonding. Shark cage diving may sound more dangerous but it is probably less treacherous than mountain climbing. It may also be more fun.

Ultimately, that is what the shortest format is about. It is an adrenaline rush and an acceptance that things are not really as serious as they seem. That is the attitude South Africa will take into next month's tournament: relaxed, because they consider themselves ready.

"We can't do any worse than other sides that have been there in the past," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, said at the squad announcement last week. "We've been to two World Cups since I've been involved and both times we got to the semi-finals. We've won a knockout game, we've played really good cricket in those knockout games."

Since Domingo took over in June 2013, he has been South Africa's most successful major tournament coach, if only because he is the only one to win a knockout match in a 50-over World Cup. South Africa beat Sri Lanka in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals and played in the match of the tournament in the semi-final against New Zealand, which they lost off the penultimate ball. They also reached the semi-final of the 2014 World T20 where they failed to defend 172 against India.

Both times, Domingo accepted there was nothing more they could have done to change the outcome. "Sometimes you've got to take your hat off and say well played to the opposition. Both semi-finals we've lost have been a case of that. There's by no means been any choking on our part, we've just been outplayed by a team that has played better," he said.

But in the 2015 50-over edition, many felt there was something that could have been done, in selection terms. From a South African point of view, the semi-final against New Zealand is almost remembered as much for the decisions taken off the field, than for the extraordinary drama which unfolded on it, where a last minute change to the XI saw Vernon Philander picked ahead of Kyle Abbott in order to field a side that also had the transformation guidelines in mind.

The revelations of the interference in selection only came in the weeks after the tournament, after CSA had also increased domestic quotas. Since then, there have been several public questions about the selection of players of colour in the national side and whether they merit their place or if they are keeping deserving white players out of the side.

In the aftermath of South Africa's series-clinching victory at Newlands on Sunday, prominent journalist Dan Retief tweeted: "SA carried to victory by two White Afrikaners…politicians and media commentators take note….for what it is worth." CSA were angered by the comment, they issued a statement in which CEO Haroon Lorgat condemned it as "insensitive and extremely disappointing." Retief later apologised for any offence caused.

While the issue of transformation is not going to go away quietly, Domingo provided assurances that, "we just want to pick our best players," and the 2015 World Cup controversy has faded from memory.

"As the coach, I feel that's my job. Try and get the best players on the park. And whatever perceptions or reporting was has happened, it's not something we even think about any more," he said. "Every World Cup, South Africa has been involved in there's always been some controversial thing, whether it's not reading D/L properly or Allan dropping his bat, there's always been some sort of thing.

"You've just got to try and make the right decisions at the right times. We know what we need to do to pick a team and we pick our best players."

At this tournament, that may mean both allrounders, David Wiese and Chris Morris, will find a spot in the XI with T20 captain Faf du Plessis giving his support to the pair. "There's place for both Wiese and Morris. I am a fan of having a long and strong batting line-up," du Plessis said when the squad was announced. "It comes from my time playing at Chennai [Super Kings]. Make your batting line-up as strong as possible and have four bowlers who can do a job."

South Africa have searched for an allrounder since Jacques Kallis retired and now that they have finally found not one, but two, they want to use them both. "Allrounders are massively important. South Africa had an abundance of allrounders in the past and it's something we are trying to come to grips with at the moment," Domingo said.

"Batting depth and players who can provide you with more than one skill are of importance. You are going to have the odd specialist, Malinga, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir who are outstandingly good at their skills but if the guys aren't quite as good as those guys, they have got to provide you with something else."

That may be why they likes of Rilee Rossouw and Aaron Phangiso could find the closest they come to a bite of the action is in the cage with the sharks.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   James C Birbeck Dar on February 17, 2016, 15:02 GMT

    It seems to me to make a lot of sense to have several all rounders in the side. One of the reasons England have improved is that the long batting line up allows them to keep attacking. Stokes, Ali, Woakes, Willey and Rashid are all capable batsmen.

  • Jay on February 17, 2016, 14:56 GMT

    @MemoryLossRectified: Please complete what you started. You mentioned in your comment that India lost to a depleted SL team. Yes, but that was the first game. India won the series 2-1. The better team will always win regardless of format. So England beating PAK 3-0 and India beating AUS 3-0 shows how good ENG and IND are in T20s at the moment. You simply cannot state T20s are lotteries. Teams are now taking the format seriously given how many players play in world T20 leagues nowadays.

  • pushkar on February 17, 2016, 14:17 GMT

    I completely agree with ELLAGINGIO. South Africa have always had a generous number of world class all rounders. Klusener, McMillan, Pollock, Kallis, Pat Symcox, Hansie Cronje, just to name a few. The reason why the world doesn't speak so highly of them is because of the lack of hype you South Africans get. These players in any other country would have been rock stars. Ask us Indians and we'll tell you the pain of not having them

  • Keith Waters on February 17, 2016, 13:25 GMT

    @SYDWELL.MAGOCOBA really so Pollock, MacMillan, Klusener to name just a few you wouldn't class as All Rounders?

  • Ian on February 17, 2016, 11:35 GMT

    Wiese and Morris both conceded a lot of runs in the recent ODI series and gave batsmen far too many scoring opportunities. I'm not sure it'd be such a great idea to field both of them.

  • Simrat on February 17, 2016, 11:31 GMT

    protea's are very lucky to have like you

  • Faan on February 17, 2016, 11:14 GMT

    @ Richardson Mzaidume. Your attitude pretty much sums up the bulk of the Proteas' supporters views. I do not feel that way and believe that we should sober up and see them in a bit more rational light. NZ played well enough to win that semi, but the Proteas were plainly unlucky not to be in the final. Lots of variables there (i.e. BMac bowled his best bowlers out and was a sitting duck if it did not rain) and who knows with a final. They were clearly badly dispirited after the long tour of India and those test pitches. Most short attention spanned SA supporters forget that they won the ODI and T20 series IN INDIA AGAINST INDIA on that same tour(!). How about some support for your team?

  • Varun on February 17, 2016, 9:15 GMT

    I love test cricket. Huge fan. But enough of this t20 is a lottery nonsense. Winning a t20 game requires skill and above all temperament. Hitting at a strike rate of 200 is a serious skill, dosent matter how flat the pitch is. And it's not really the death of bowlers , look at the top 10 bowlers and their stats. Those are pretty good numbers. Give the format the respect it deserves.

  •   Selvin Gramany on February 17, 2016, 8:40 GMT

    FAFs win record been great since taking over the Captaincy of the T20 side and I foresee SA doing well in this w/cup.

  • Pride on February 17, 2016, 7:26 GMT

    1) Quinton, 2) AB, 3) Faf, 4) JP, 5) Miller, 6) Rilee, 7) Wiese, 8) Morris, 9) KG, 10) Abbott, 11) Tahir. Our team isn't that bad except for Behardien over Albie and Dale over Morne because Dale is highly likely to break down after 1 over. If a batsman is injured then AB can move down the order and open with Amla. I don't think Phangiso is a big threat.

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