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Mark Boucher: 'Team realised we are not a finished product'

Coach credits self-awareness for South Africa's run of seven successive T20I wins

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Quinton de Kock has benefited from being unburdened from the captaincy  •  AFP/Getty Images

Quinton de Kock has benefited from being unburdened from the captaincy  •  AFP/Getty Images

Just as they're on a roll, they'll be taking a break. And it could not have come at a worse time.
South Africa have completed a streak of three successive T20I series wins after beating West Indies, Ireland and now Sri Lanka on their winter tours. Say what you like about whether South Africa always looked at their best or the state of the opposition - and remember that West Indies were at full strength - but at a time when there have been few good things to say about the South African men's team performance, this is among the best there is. They've equalled a record of seven successive T20I victories and are in as good a shape as they could have hoped to be, according to coach Mark Boucher.
"This team realised that we are definitely not the finished product, so there's a lot of things we speak about," Boucher said. "We had a good chat about the lessons we've learnt and where we want to go as a team. We tied the record for the most T20 wins by a South African team. That was one of the records that we were playing for. We understand that going into a World Cup each game is as important as the others and this becomes a habit. This is just part of the growth of the team."
Their opportunity to break that record and add an eighth win will come on October 23, when they take on Australia in the T20 World Cup opener. Between now and then, half of the squad will return home to South Africa to compete in a domestic T20 knockout cup and prepare for the tournament while the other half will head to the IPL.
"We've spoken to the guys going to the IPL. They need to stay quite disciplined and realise we want to peak at the right time as a unit," Boucher said. "They'll be picking up bits of information about playing in those conditions that will really get them ready for a big tournament and if they manage themselves well and get some good time in the nets and get used to facilities it will stand us in good stead. It will be a great experience as long as guys look after themselves and peak at the right time."
Chief among Boucher's concerns will be injuries, particularly for players like David Miller, who returned from a hamstring injury for the Sri Lanka T20Is only to pick up a quad niggle after the first match. Miller is among those going to the IPL. So are all South Africa's frontline quicks - Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi (who missed the Sri Lanka tour for personal reasons) and Anrich Nortje - along with their star batter Quinton de Kock and the in-form Aiden Markram. The latter two, especially, Boucher wants fit and firing in a batting line-up that has managed well despite being one short throughout the Sri Lanka series.
De Kock was South Africa's top-scorer and continues to benefit from being unburdened from the captaincy. "Quinny went through a bit of a tough time after (the) Pakistan (tour in February) but since coming in he has been fantastic in the team environment. You can't keep a player like that down for too long," Boucher said. "He has been in a very happy space. He is a big name going into the World Cup so him being in the form that he is, is good."
And Markram, who was signed as a replacement player for Dawid Malan at Punjab Kings, has emerged as not only flexible enough to bat anywhere in the top order but as an allrounder option in spinner-friendly conditions. He finished as the joint-second leading bowler in the series. "Aiden has grown a hell of a lot in his game and has different options now," Boucher said.
Returning captain Temba Bavuma, who is recovering from a broken thumb, will add another top-order player to the mix for the T20 World Cup. Boucher is pleased to have a problem of plenty, even when it comes to leadership. He had nothing but praise for stand-in skipper Keshav Maharaj, who debuted in the format in this series, took a wicket with his first ball, and led South Africa to a clean sweep.
"With Keshav - this is not his first roadshow. He has been around, especially in conditions like this. He has got a great feel for the game," Boucher said. "The communication, confidence and trust he has in the spinners, especially the confidence he showed in Aiden, Aiden fed off and produced the goods. The way he dealt with his spinners and the players was great. He has got great leadership which stands us in good stead."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent