No team in international cricket cherishes the opportunity to run into the lethal South Africa. They aren’t your average opponents by any figment of imagination. Driven, lethal, highly motivated and forever willing to aim for top glories, they can prove to be the nemesis of any strong contender, be it India, Australia or Sri Lanka. Locking horns with the stars of the rainbow nation often results in two outputs; one- that you will have to play a cricket game in a do or die fashion if you are fancying any chances of a victory, second- very simply, the sound of victory will echo on South Africa’s flag. Adjectives like promising and confident would appear rather unfitting to this cricketing side replete with imposing talent and explosive abilities to outperform nearly every side in world cricket. Words like gritty, hard-hitting and indefatigable aptly summarize the competitive spirit of one of the World’s toughest cricketing sides to beat. But despite their on – field brilliance and the recurring ability of its players to find top place in international cricket rankings, they are constantly pressured by the shadowy tag of chokers, a tag with which many highs and lows of their cricket has come to be associated. As the mighty Protean squad prepare to lock horns in the most prestigious and mega cricketing event, they will look forward to their commanding talents to help its cricket bury the chokers tag; and perhaps aim for a sparkling crown that is yet to be captured in a titanic battle of cricket- the ICC Cricket World Cup. And if they have any possible chance of doing so, they will require the diligent services of some of their best talents:
1. Dale Steyn
It isn’t a very encouraging side to see a puffed up Dale Steyn looking to fire in at any batsman out in the middle. Be it a swashbuckling opening batsmen or a strong and dependable middle order bat- to negotiate terms with the express speed of “Steyn-gun” is not an easy task. Once set and ready to go, it is hard to curb the mighty Dale Steyn. The pace of some of his stock deliveries come to resemble deadly blows fired from a blistering cannon. Agile, athletic and always game to rise to any challenge- it will be very difficult to score easily of this lanky right arm pacer as he will look to outdo any batsman who comes to challenge the might of his beloved South Africa. With 148 ODI wickets from only 94 games at a miserly average of 25, Steyn will look to not just cross the memorable 150 plus wicket milestone in this mega event but will aim at continuously terrorize the batsmen in front. Key look out messages from his end to batsmen could be to watch out for the toe crushing Yorkers or prepare to duck from the threatening bouncers.
2. Quinton de Kock
Perhaps the best batting find of South Africa in a long time, this gritty left handed batsmen should deservingly claim the tag of the “baby bomber”, for his massive six hitting capacity. Technically a wicket keeper, de Kock’s rise to international stardom is stuff made in dreams. After all, how many times does one see a youngster being accentuated to the national level side having done extremely well in one major International cricketing league and yet managing to capture selectors’ attention. For his memorable batting exploits in the Challenger Trophy T 20 tournament held at South Africa, which quickly followed his high batting output in domestic cricket in 2012 and 2013, de Kock the 22 year old youngster was rewarded a deserving place in South Africa’s limited overs side and since then, he has only gracefully repaid the selector’s faith in his abilities. India got a taste of his big hitting abilities during their tour to South Africa about a year and half ago when as an opener he struck back to back ODI hundreds, staying long on to the crease to crush any hopes of India’s resurgence. He already has 6 hundreds and 4 fifties at an impressive strike rate of 88 from mere 35 ODI games. Quick and agile behind the wickets and a fast scorer above them, de Kock who will play his first world cup will offer his zeal and one hundred percent dedication to lift South Africa’s hopes in their World cup journey.
3. Hashim Amla
Ask any modern day fast bowler what it is to bowl to a certain Hashim Amla! He will most certainly revert with a tired expression, admitting that he is amongst the most difficult batsmen to dislodge, once set and totally focused out on the middle. South Africa’s One day captain enjoys tiring out the opposition and treating the admirers and fans to his breathtaking repertoire of strokes that range from the fluent straight drive to the glorious cover drive. Ensuring that the expanse of his batting covers every grass on the ground, there is the enticing looking leg glance and the formidable on drive. A gritty and solid opening batsman and a graceful leader who constantly motivates the side to go the extra mile in unfolding the opposition, Amla has amassed over 5000 one day runs from a 101 knocks, carving 17 hundreds and 26 fifties at a supreme average of 53. It is remarkable that as an opener he has constantly managed to maintain his batting average upto the 50 plus mark, a facet that will come in handy for his side if he continues the melodious rhythm with which he is known to bat and bat long till it takes a toll on the opposition.
4. Imran Tahir
What makes cricket an exciting game and a difficult puzzle for batsmen is the inclusion of clever spinners who are constantly at loggerheads with batsmen given their innate abilities to contain their scoring rates. Easily a bigger turner of the bowl than fellow Protean Johan Botha and their best leg spinner to date, Imran Tahir’s inclusion in the South African squad is a welcome decision. Long been a side that heavily depends on the sharp abilities of its lanky pacers to harass batsmen, this big turner will aim at plenty of quicker ones and googly’s to stump the batsmen in front. He is a clever opponent who can easily mix the deliveries up, gifted with the ability of never seeming to be predictable with what he is going to offer next to the batters, his straighter ones are as effective as the leg break. Any moment of over- confidence against this grabber of 50 wickets from a mere 27 ODI games, and you are living dangerously. Tahir, who enjoys the challenge of bowling to big hitters maintains a miserly economy rate of 4.30 and would be willing to take his first 5 wicket haul in this edition of the World Cup, which may well be his last.
5. David Miller
A simple, uncomplicated bloke who goes about doing what he enjoys the most, batting- never comes difficult to the mighty left handed hitter. His mere presence in the middle is at times a little unnerving for the opposition who are aware of his uncanny abilities to even send good and promising deliveries for a walk in the park. A firm middle order bat, the young David Miller with his big hitting abilities cares little for grace or elegance in his technique and his brisk running between the wickets and the free scoring abilities prove often overwhelming to the opposition who remain befooled by taking this poker-face bat lightly. His strike rate was devastating in the last year’s IPL tournament, an opportunity that he made the most out of in terms of learning to follow many fellow international players’ game-play and his recent batting form only suggests that bowlers down under might be in for a hard time if they run into this muscular lefty, who will aim to make the most out of the batting powerplay. South Africa’s newfound hope will add teeth to a glittery line up that has batsmen of the class of Duminy, Amla, A.B. and du Plessis.
6. Faf du Plessis
There are some batsmen who enjoy playing the big strokes, worrying only occasionally about rotating the strike. Then there are few who like to play a handy part in chasing an imposing total set by the grueling opposition. There might be few, who constantly rise game after game to offer their very best to their respective side either in constructing mighty scores or in running down the opposition. Faf du Plessis, the scorer of 2000 ODI runs from 61 innings with 3 hundreds and 11 fifties, is all of the above. His face lights up with the sight of a challenge. South Africa’s ‘marathon- man’ is often seen carrying the weight of the entire opposition on his strong shoulders. Faf’s meteoric rise in South African line up is a testimony of his indefatigable ability to dish out meaningful scores, one after the other. It seems he literally swings with joy with the possible opportunity to play a vital hand in building a partnership. With a cool head over the shoulders, and gifted with a mindset that refuses to succumb to pressure, he will be a formidable batsman for the Proteas at the top order and a difficult wicket to dislodge in the middle for the best bowling attacks. Realizing that this is the best chance of his national side to lift their ultimate glory, Faf would do well to take his chances by displaying the best his bat has to offer in the mega cricketing spectacle.
7. AB de Villiers
There are very few players left in world cricket today, who enjoy as much adulation from their fellow players as the respect flowing in from the opposition’s camp. Abraham De Villiers, the humble and smiling assassin from South Africa is a tall genius who remains ever ready to exude his pomp on the opposition. He is a reminder that graceful and elegant cricket still has a place in the competitive modern day arena and that personal goals should take back seat in front of the collective interest of the side. The selfless performer often rolls out from his sleeves- the very best he has to offer to protect the honor of his side. A very useful and handy wicketkeeper, he is agile and extremely fit. The daft glove work allows for an additional player to be included in the playing eleven and once he firmly takes guard in the middle, South Africans echo with a conformity that fireworks are ready to sparkle as their darling A.B. is willing to take on the best of attacks. His 7200 ODI runs are the most in the present playing eleven and an astonishing record that boasts of 18 hundreds and 40 plus fifties at an imposing rate of 95 are sufficient to summarize his heroic exploits with the bat. With the recent retirement of Kallis the stalwart, there cannot be a greater platform than this year’s world cup for a player of De Villiers’ class to accentuate an already glowing legend. He is amongst the finest timers of the cricket ball who can also successfully invent strokes at will and clobber some big ones out of the park.