Hashim Amla has his say on Proteas’ chances at Cricket World Cup, Temba Bavuma’s form and pace vs spin

Temba Bavuma’s form will be under the spotlight at the Cricket World Cup. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Temba Bavuma’s form will be under the spotlight at the Cricket World Cup. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Sep 23, 2023


The Proteas depart for India today to undertake yet another challenge to bring home the ICC Cricket World Cup trophy. They will do so for the first time in 12 years without legendary batter Hashim Amla.

Independent Media’s Zaahier Adams – who has covered the last two World Cups in Australasia (2015) and the UK (2019) – chatted exclusively to the ‘Mighty#’ to get his views on past disappointments, the unique pressure of World Cups and just how important captain Temba Bavuma is to the Proteas’ cause in India.

Zaahier Adams: The Proteas dominated bilateral series in the past, but failed at World Cups. What is the reason behind this?

Hashim Amla: The main difference is that you play a different team each time. That is where the challenge comes in, because you might be on a hot run in a bilateral series, in terms of knowing your opposition and being able to strategise, and you are able to dominate them in a series.

But in a World Cup, if you are not on top of your game that day, you can falter. Sometimes when you try too hard, that’s where you can falter. That’s the biggest difference at World Cups.

How can this be remedied?

Amla: I think when you get to the World Cup you have to pick a team that is on top form, and then you need to think on your feet. I think it is similar to how the T20 leagues have phased out – like if a player is not performing in two or three games, then you almost have to try another one. But World Cups are now structured differently, where you play all the teams at least once, and it’s longer, which makes it better to stick with a player now.

Having been part of three very different campaigns in 2011, 2015 and 2019, which lessons have you heeded in terms of handling the unique pressure of World Cups?

Amla: It is very difficult. In 2019, we didn’t start well. We lost to England, who went to win the World Cup. And then losing to Bangladesh was a huge knock. Once you start like that, it is hard to bring it back. A lot depends on your coaching and management staff to maintain a positive attitude, and most importantly for your senior players to be in line with that. It keeps the morale good, so that when you get a win, you can get another win, and create the momentum to take you deeper into the competition.

During the last World Cup on the sub-continent in 2011, the Proteas picked three specialist spinners and the part-time spin of JP Duminy in the starting XI. In 2023, there seems to be heavy reliance on pace. Have they got the selection right?

Amla: They have picked two spinners (Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi), with Aiden (Markram), who in my opinion is more than just a part-time spinner. I really can’t see them picking more, to be honest.

There is no way in a World Cup the wickets won’t be free-scoring wickets with good outfields. Reverse-swing may play a role, depending on the weather. So a pace-dominated attack may work in their favour.

In 2015 when you played against India at the MCG in front of 86 000 spectators the noise was almost deafening. How will the Proteas cope against the hosts in front of an expected 95 000 people at Eden Gardens in Kolkata?

Amla: The loudest noise is the one in your head. So, you’ve got to keep track of what your thoughts are, keep pulling yourself to the moment of what needs to be done, and then succeed in that moment.

Playing in India is going to be amazing for them. Some may not have, some may have experienced it, having played IPL. I would think most of them would be used to the buzz and excitement, which was not there 10 years ago.

Having played under three different captains in Graeme Smith (2011), AB de Villiers (2015) and Faf du Plessis (2019) at World Cups, how important is current skipper Temba Bavuma and his amazing ODI form at present to the Proteas?

Amla: Temba is an amazing player. Over the last couple of years, he has gone a few levels up. I remember when Russell (Domingo) was coach, we always felt Temba would be an amazing one-day cricketer.

For me, it’s no surprise that he’s done well. To have a captain leading from the front runs-wise is very important. He has the respect of the players, so the blocks are lining up nicely for something great to be achieved.

The Proteas have stated that they want to adopt an attacking game-plan at the World Cup. Do you think that’s the right way to go?

England, of course, played that way and gained success. If that is the way South Africa wants to play, then we should persist in it and give it time to work.

We have amazing players to do it, and then you have to pick players that form in line with that vision.

Lastly, which teams do you predict will reach the semifinals?

Amla: I’ll go with India, Pakistan, South Africa and England.