LONDON – “Will they be brave enough?”
That was Graeme Smith’s challenge to the Proteas on the eve of the World Cup opener against England on Thursday.
The former Proteas skipper, who is the United Kingdom on commentary duty, believes the spin of Tabraiz Shamsi could be the way to counter the hosts’ much-vaunted batting unit after Dale Steyn was ruled out on Tuesday with a shoulder injury.
“I think it will be interesting to see how South Africa go now. Do they go for the all-round skills of Chris Morris. I would have liked to see more of him in the warm-up games,” Smith told ICC digital.
“Also the option would be to go for the second spinner in Shamsi. I think that is going to be an effective decision throughout the tournament. Will they be brave enough to go there for the game one? I don't know.”
Smith, who led the Proteas in two World Cups, played an integral part in changing the attitude around spin bowling in South Africa, particularly in regards to one-day cricket.
Although initially cautious at the beginning of his helm, where he too favoured the Proteas traditional strength of pace bowling, Smith’s confidence in his slow bowlers matured along with his leadership.
During the ICC World T20 here in England a decade ago, Smith’s Proteas regularly utilised the twin spin options of Johan Botha and Roelof van Merwe when they famously “out-spun” India at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge.
Even more impressive was at the 2011 World Cup when the Proteas fielding three specialist spinners, including the recently qualified Imran Tahir. Left-arm spinner Robin Peterson and Tahir finished as South Africa’s leading wicket-takers at #CWC11.
Although conditions are admittedly vastly different here in England than on the sub-continent, the double spin option can still be effective. The hosts’ batting unit has shown vulnerabilities against high-quality spin the past, while they too will throw two spinners at the Proteas in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid on Thursday.
Smith is confident, though, that Steyn will still be asset for the later rounds of the tournament.
“I think we have seen that he (Steyn) is a guy that bounces back well. He has a huge amount of experience and he will be doing a lot of work to get ready and match ready. I think the target for South Africa is Game 3 against India. That will be the game they will expect Dale to come back,” Smith added.@ZaahierAdams
* Zaahier Adams is reporting for IOL Sport from the Cricket World Cup