South Africa gamble on Quinton de Kock

South Africa will gamble on Quinton de Kock's fitness at the World Cup, having named him in their final fifteen

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
South Africa will gamble on Quinton de Kock's fitness at the World Cup, having named him in their final 15. De Kock is only expected to recover from his ankle ligament tear after South Africa's first two games, which will leave AB de Villiers to keep wicket initially and a spare batsman to open with Hashim Amla. Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien were both included for that purpose.
There was no space for left-arm seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe, despite indications he would be considered for a recall, with Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell being the extra bowlers. Ryan McLaren, who took over the allrounder role following Jacques Kallis' retirement, also lost his place.
JP Duminy, who has been nursing a knee injury and out of action since the second week of November, also made the squad. He should be back in action for the first ODI against West Indies next Friday after "a long, hard period of rehab".
Perhaps more notable than South Africa's playing personnel inclusions and exclusions is the one absentee on their management staff. This time South Africa will travel without a mental motivator to help them work through the under-performances that have marred their World Cup history.
In 2011, Paddy Upton accompanied the squad, while Henning Gericke, who also worked with the national rugby team, the Springboks, when they won the 2007 World Cup, had been a consultant to the team beforehand. Gericke remains on Cricket South Africa's books and has and will consult with the team beforehand but there are "no plans for him to accompany us", according to South Africa's team manager Mohammed Moosajee.
Instead, South Africa are hoping to begin a new chapter in which they shut out the ghosts of tournaments past and concentrate on what lies ahead. "It's the first fifty-over World Cup I have been involved in and it's an opportunity to do what no other South African side has done," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, said at an elaborate unveiling function in Cape Town. "We are aware of the challenges and the pressures. I wish I could tell everybody we are going to win it, but I can't. There will be five or six teams challenging for the trophy and hopefully we will be one of those challenging."
Rather than play down their desire for success and the anxiety they face on the journey, which has been a feature of South African teams in the past, this one is not hiding their hope or their hesitation. "We do feel pressure, it's a huge responsibility. We desperately want to win a World Cup and bring it home," AB de Villiers, South Africa's captain, said. "We've been playing some good cricket and we are confident. We feel we have got a really good chance."
This will be de Villiers' third World Cup and he has promised to do "absolutely nothing" differently to the previous attempts, instead relying purely on his and his squad's development between the last competition and this one. "I am a more experienced player now than I was then, and a few things have changed in my game," he said. "I am still going to go out there and try to win games for South Africa - I just feel I am a little better at it now than I was when I started."
De Villiers is one of eight players who have been to World Cups before, which means almost half of South Africa's squad are major tournament rookies. That includes de Kock, Rossouw and Behardien but even with inexperience laced through their line-up, South Africa will continue to play what convener of selectors Andrew Hudson called the "style of cricket" they have made their own over the last two years. "We like to play seven batsmen or maybe an allrounder at No.7, and then five frontline bowlers," he said. "There process of selection has been about supporting that type of cricket."
South Africa have had a lengthy build-up period to decide on their final squad, which will see them play more ODIs than any other team in the six months before the tournament. That has included series' in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and a recce in New Zealand and Australia. The last of those served as a "reminder we still have a lot to do if we want to be serious contenders", according to Domingo. South Africa lost 1-4 in Australia, but Hudson does not believe that marred their preparations.
"The World Cup is not about only about playing Australia, its about playing minnows and sides with different batting and bowling strengths and being able to accommodate and play cricket accordingly," Hudson said, while de Villiers only saw it as a speedbump on the way to success. "I can't see it as a blessing in disguise because I hate losing," he said.
That may ultimately be the message South Africa are given when they begin the tournament which, this time, they believe is theirs for the taking. "We've got the right players to win, we've just got to find a way to do that," de Villiers said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent