New Zealand in South Africa 2012-13 December 18, 2012

South Africa building new-look Twenty20 unit


A return to a problem of old hampered South Africa the last time they played in the shortest format at the World Twenty20. Middle-order batsman Farhaan Behardien suggested instability in the line-up was to blame for the team returning empty handed.

"Where we struggled in Sri Lanka was that we lost early wickets and then the slow bowlers come on and it was difficult to rebuild," he said. Apart from the match against Zimbabwe, which South Africa won by ten wickets, they lost their first two batsmen for a maximum of 28 runs in the other fixtures.

The combination of Richard Levi and Hashim Amla did not work and when Levi was dropped for the final match, Jacques Kallis partnered Amla also with little success. Neither Kallis nor Amla is part of the current squad, although Levi is. If he plays, he is expected to be joined at the top by either the captain Faf du Plessis or the uncapped Henry Davids , who could also form a partnership of their own.

While different pairs could solve the issue to an extent, South Africa's floating middle order also unsettles them. As they aim to build a new-look T20 side, starting with the matches against New Zealand, role definition and countering the spin threat have become two of the major areas under consideration.

Behardien indicated that the first of those had already been ironed out, especially for him. "My job is assessing the risk. If we lose early wickets upfront, my job is risk management and seeing how we can maximise the remaining overs to get to a high total. And to play the spinners low risk," he said. "But if we have a good start, without too many wickets in the first few overs, we can take on the spinners. That's one of our focuses going forward."

Even without Daniel Vettori in the New Zealand line-up, South Africa are wary of New Zealand's spinners. Ronnie Hira, the left-armer, took three wickets in the warm-up match against South Africa A, including that of Justin Ontong, while Nathan McCullum was economical in his three overs of offspin. "We've had a lot of practice against spin in the one-day cup," Behardien said.

With the major emphasis on technical aspects, South Africa could forget that a transition phase also involves building a new team culture but Berhardien said that has been equally high on their agenda. With regular limited-overs captain AB de Villiers opting out of the series, stand-in leader du Plessis will have to create his own environment for the players to excel in.

Du Plessis captained South Africa A against Sri Lanka A in June and the players who were involved in that series, like Behariden, got a taste of his leadership style. "He is very big on team culture. Everybody is not for themselves. You've got to give, you've got to be selfless, whether it be throw-downs, extra catches, helping generally, packing up the kit- those very small things."

Most importantly, with the pressure of a major tournament not hanging over them, Berhardien hopes the mood in the camp will lighten. "It's all been a bit serious over the last while and sometimes we forget that we need to have fun and express ourselves.

"As players we get stiff and we get tight because we want to do so well and perform for our country. So you forget that this is what you've been wanting to do since you were a little kid and when you forget about those values then you don't really perform at your best, because you are too tense and worrying the whole time about the results."

Russell Domingo, South Africa's new Twenty20 coach, said he will not look as far ahead as the 2014 World T20. The upcoming matches are more about laying the groundwork for a short-form unit that can go on and replicate the successes of the Test side.

"The team culture won't be much different to what is in the Test side," Behardien said. "It might be tweaked a bit with a new captain and a new coach. Sometimes the same thing can be said in a slightly different way and it could make a world of difference to the individual and something could click. I think it is a fresh approach and I am quite excited to be a part of it."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2012, 8:12 GMT

    I agree with Shafaet, like domestically he's obviously one of the best, but BIG International stage has not yielded anything. I think SA needs to look at their One Day Cricket as a whole.

  • Hendrik on December 20, 2012, 1:55 GMT

    Well Faf is the ebst thing that could have happen to South African Cricket, he is a leader, and a fantastic batsmen in any form of teh game, and then the best fielder in world Cricket, then you look at Behardien is a fantastic example of hard work in the domestic scene, and show it on International level, the big picture will be dimmed, without the service of Duminy who is injured at the moment, david Miller to me is the best in form batting from no 1-6 position, Q. de. Kock he is on the brink of great things awaited him, as batmen, wicketkeeper.Great to see Davids there, and that SA stuck with Levi, it will be an interesting setup without Amla and Kallis and offcause AB, but it is time that South Africa Cricket must build the expetise with new faces, and start to collect some silverware.

  • Harjinder on December 19, 2012, 23:00 GMT

    HI SA ....Thank GOD ,finally SA board selected some good players like Q.D kOCK ....Farhaan.....GOOD luck guys

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2012, 22:08 GMT

    @riprock: I think steyn is more like donald, their action has similarities, morkel is unique.

  • Ritvik on December 19, 2012, 17:46 GMT

    SA's talent in fast-bowling, close-in fielding and six-hitters looks quite in abundance. Players like AB, Faf, Duminy, Ingram, Behardien, and Miller are all similar batters in limited-overs,.. aggressive hitters in T20s and always quite agile and brisk in the field. Also, a varied choice between quicks like Steyn, Morkel, De Lange, Tsotsobe, Philander, Parnell, Theron, Langeveldt sounds pretty intimidating. Any of these above may've been legends in teams like India or SL by now. Surely more richer in India though, haha Anyone else thinks players like Jonty, Pollock, Donald, Klusener left a legacy that's being followed? Jonty with his outrageous fielding, Klusener's quick-scoring and the two pacers in the bowling. Philander like Pollock, Morkel more like Donald..and Steyn a wicked combination of both? haha. Remains to be seen if Q.De Kock can successfully pull of a possible mighty combination of being a Boucher behind the stumps and maybe more reasonably a Kirsten with his batting!

  • Aman on December 19, 2012, 16:38 GMT

    This guy is still in the T20 team? Amazing - I didnt know SAFAs have so low bench strength

  • Gaurav on December 19, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    Phangiso will be the man to watch, whether he is just a CLT sensation or he can sustain at international level as well !!

  • Muzammil on December 19, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    For those who suggest that he is not good enough for the national team, do you even follow the domestic T20 league? In the last edition he averaged about 65+ and had a strike rate of 150+. One of, if not the best and most consistent finishers in S.A. He didn't perform that well in Sri Lanka but neither did most of the batting line-up. As for those saying he is talking too much, Where exactly in the article is he hyping himself or the team? Please read the article again. All he discusses is the team culture & his role in the team, obviously answering questions posed by the writer about the young and inexperienced squad. No mention of playing down the opposition! Give him a chance, A very talented batsman and excellent fielder...GO PROTEAS!!

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2012, 12:00 GMT

    Think perhaps Behardian's time has come and gone. At 29, if you're not in the first team, it's hard to see when you will be. Possibly he's a late bloomer but I don't think so.

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2012, 10:21 GMT

    Behardien shouldn't be anywhere near in the team, he really struggled in srilanka, scored very slowly.

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