Proteas need Ottniel Baartman, Kagiso Rabada fit to challenge in West Indian conditions

The Proteas will be banking on Kagiso Rabada to lead their attack at the T20 World Cup. Picture: Wikus de Wet / AFP

The Proteas will be banking on Kagiso Rabada to lead their attack at the T20 World Cup. Picture: Wikus de Wet / AFP

Published May 28, 2024


Stand-in captain Rassie van der Dussen’s damning assessment of the Proteas’ bowling effort in their three-match T20 series against the West Indies was simple ... “they "just out-skilled us".

When you look at the statistics of the West Indies’ 3-0 whitewash of the Proteas, it’s clear that the Proteas’ difference between the two sides in this rather one-sided series was the men with ball in hand.

The pace department is currently a major concern for the Proteas ahead of the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and United States, especially when it comes to their two genuinely quick bowlers Anrich Nortje and Gerald Coetzee.

Nortje, especially, looks way off his best after a long injury layoff. The Proteas would have hoped that he would find his groove in the Indian Premier League, but the speedster is struggling for rhythm and consistency.

Nortje took seven wickets and went for over 13 runs an over in the six matches he played in the IPL. The Warriors fast bowler then went for 12.16 runs in the two matches he played in against the Windies, also going wicketless.

Coetzee had a decent outing in the IPL, taking 13 wickets in the 10 matches he played. However, he also went for 10 runs to the over in India. Coetzee took two wickets against the Windies in the two matches, but also travelled after ending with an economy rate of 9.57.

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Both Coetzee and Nortje - along with the rest of the seamers - were too predictable. The West Indies batsmen took advantage of some erratic bowling, although they also enjoyed their fair share of luck.

Varying the pace, line and length is key in T20 cricket, especially in this day and age where batters are inclined to try and hit every ball.

“We got taught a lesson of how to play in Caribbean conditions from a bowling perspective. It was difficult wickets to bat on - yes maybe better on Saturday [in the second T20I] - but they out-skilled us, especially with the ball,” Van der Dussen said.

Both players may eventually find themselves behind the ropes when the tournament starts, with Kagiso Rabada and Ottniel Baartman likely coming back into the team for next week’s first World Cup clash against Sri Lanka in New York.

Baartman impressed in his Proteas debut in the first T20I, taking 3/26 before missing the next two matches with a lower limb injury. He is arguably also the best death bowler in the squad after shining in the SA20.

Rabada had come back early from the IPL to nurse an injury of his own, but the Proteas will need their spearhead to fire, as a man who can adapt to conditions rather quickly.

Nobody knows what sort of conditions to expect in New York, where the Proteas start off their campaign before heading back to the Caribbean.

With Marco Jansen likely taking the all-rounder spot at No 7, the Proteas could opt for two spinners together with Baartman and Rabada. However, if there is some assistance for the seamers in the US, then Nortje or Coetzee will likely get the nod ahead of the spinners..

But in Caribbean conditions, it’s the Proteas will probably include two of the three spinners they picked for the World Cup, with Bjorn Fortuin, Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi all gunning for a place in the starting XI.

Coetzee and Nortje are class performers when they are firing, but it looks like genuine pace and using shock bowlers won’t be the answer in those conditions.

The Proteas boast a hard-hitting batting line-up, one capable of winning a World Cup, but they can’t afford for their bowlers to go for 10 runs an over in every match.