“We have made it clear that with the resources we have, with (Kagiso) Rabada, (Dale) Steyn, (Lungi) Ngidi, (Imran) Tahir and even to a degree (Tabraiz) Shamsi, we believe that is what will win us the tournament, so we won’t compromise that,” said captain Faf du Plessis before the team’s departure.
“Runs will be irrelevant if you have the strongest bowling attack at the World Cup,” he said.
It’s a sentiment shared by Indian great Rahul Dravid, who at the weekend told Indian media that bowling teams out would be central to success at the tournament.
“In a high-scoring World Cup, having bowlers who can take wickets in the middle will be very important. Teams that are taking wickets through those middle overs in those high-scoring games have a better chance of restricting the opposition,” said Dravid.
South Africa came to that conclusion just before the tour of Australia last year, when the side’s strategy changed. It most affected the number of all-rounders South Africa were going to take in their 15-man squad.
At one stage, it looked like they would take four seam bowling all-rounders, playing two in the starting 11, thereby giving Du Plessis more options with the ball, and also lengthening the batting order.
Before that tour, Du Plessis decided to halve the number of all-rounders the squad would require, and pressed the need for wicket-taking bowlers. It helped, of course, that he had the above-mentioned quartet at his disposal, but it meant making the batting thinner - adding extra responsibility to the top six, getting in an all-rounder at seven whose batting was his stronger suit, and then hoping injuries wouldn’t nullify the strategy.
Injuries have already reared their ugly head with Dale Steyn a doubt for the tournament opener against England on May30, owing to a shoulder injury. Both Rabada (back) and Ngidi (side strain) have battled ailments recently and if one or more of that trio miss matches, South Africa will be compromised.
“That (quartet of bowlers) is option A,” said Du Plessis. “If we don’t have guys who are fit to play game one, two, five or 10, then you have to look at Plan B; then there is a bit more flexibility in the think tank. But option A is pretty clear for us.”
It is one of the reasons that Chris Morris, a late replacement for the injured Anrich Nortje, has been told that in the context of this World Cup he needs to think of himself as a bowler first, so that South Africa maintain that wicket-taking mindset.
England showed again yesterday what a potent batting line-up they have, scoring more than 300 for the fourth consecutive game against Pakistan.
However Du Plessis and Proteas coach Ottis Gibson feel that with the formidable bowlers in their squad, the batsmen won’t have to feel they are under pressure to match the hosts to make massive totals.
“Even if your focus is on 350, if you have a bowling attack that can get teams out for 280, then all of a sudden that changes completely.
“People say the wickets are great and they are better wickets than we normally play on. I believe we are going there with a very powerful bowling attack, whatever the batters get we believe the bowlers can defend, at any time,” Du Plessis said.
The Proteas team left for England last night. They will face Sri Lanka in the first of two warm-up matches in Cardiff on Friday, and then travel east to play the West Indies in Bristol two days later.@shockerhess