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South Africa look to shed ‘choker’ tag
New Delhi: Cricket’s perennial chokers’ World Cup ambitions would largely hinge on their potent attack, led by young Kagiso Rabada and veteran Imran Tahir, as South Africa make their eighth attempt to achieve sport’s biggest prize.
The tag of underachievers has not separated from South Africa since their heartbreaking loss to Australia in the semifinals of the 1999 World Cup.
The Proteas are yet to reach the summit clash of the World Cup, having been knocked out at the semifinal stage four times.
But they must not weigh themselves down by the chokers tag, instead accept it and go in as underdogs. This sentiment was expressed recently by Proteas’ former Performance Director Paddy Upton. “I think the ‘chokers’ label for South Africa is a little bit too exaggerated and it’s also unfair. But I do realise that South Africa have struggled and could have performed better. They will, in time, win one of these big trophies. “But for the time being, they need to embrace and not run away from the ‘chokers’ label and also not be weighed down by it.
They just need to focus on their game and the job at their hands,” said Upton. Considering the English conditions, South Africa’s bowling attack has all bases covered with top quality pacers and spinners ready to be unleashed. Veteran speedster Steyn, young pacer Kagiso Rabada and leg-spinner Tahir hold the key to their ambitions. If fit, Steyn could be a potent weapon. Rabada and Tahir, among the top five ODI bowlers in the world, have recently put up dominating performances for their respective IPL franchises. In-form Rabada has the speed, variation, and can take the new ball as well as can bowl at the close with equal measure.
A quality wrist-spinner is a must for any team fancying its chances at the World Cup and in Tahir, who has 162 wickets at an average of 24 in 98 ODIs, South Africa have that weapon. Needing just four wickets to break the 200-barrier at the World Cup, Steyn, 35, would hope to stay injury free to provide crucial breakthroughs to the team, besides offering guidance to the likes of Rabada and Lungi Ngidi. A fine attack can give the Portaes an option to go for a batting all-rounder at No.7. Andile Phehlukwayo, who has been performing well since 2015 averaging 31.3 with the bat and 29.8 with the ball.
The Proteas would largely depend on their attack in the absence of the proven match winner A B de Villiers, who is now retired.
They do not boast big match-winners like some of the other teams but there is no dearth of experience with captain Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, J P Duminy forming the core of their batting. Du Plessis, Amla, Duminy, Tahir and Steyn will be playing their third World Cup. (PTI)