CAPE TOWN - Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, the Proteas insist they know what they are trying to do to create an accomplished one-day team for next year’s World Cup.
Nothing, though, that they have managed thus far in the series against India suggests they are indeed closer to actually doing it. If the concept is right, the execution certainly has been faulty. Two heavy defeats in the past week, by six and nine wickets at Kingsmead and SuperSport Park respectively, have placed new coach Ottis Gibson’s ODI blueprint under scrutiny.
From being a slick outfit with all the answers a mere six months ago ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, the side led now by a three-cap greenhorn Aiden Markram have suddenly become one with many questions.
“We clearly haven’t come to the party; it’s not acceptable at all‚” Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada told the media on Tuesday. “There are a few problems, but I wouldn’t say there are lot of problems. Sometimes when you do badly, there seems to be a lot going on, but then what really is happening. Failure is going to happen, and it is going to happen again, but hopefully the next game we bounce back.”
Injuries to the “irreplaceable” Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and now Quinton de Kock too will not help the cause of turning around the team’s fortunes in the third contest on Wednesday at Newlands (start 1:30pm), especially with the batting unit shorn of confidence at the moment.
India’s spin twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have put the squeeze on to such an extent that the Proteas – apart from Du Plessis in the first match in Durban – have looked befuddled against the turning ball in both matches thus far.
Due to the heat and dry conditions Cape Town is currently experiencing, it is expected that the wrist spinners will once again have a surface that encourages their trickery and skill.
Failure is inevitable; onwards we go.
It’s no wonder then that Rabada is stressing that “the right language” be spoken in the home dressing room at the moment in order to avoid a complete meltdown.
“It doesn’t help that we have been going through a few changes and not been in the best form since the Champions Trophy in one-day cricket. We are still trying to catch up at the moment. Hopefully it comes pretty soon,” the big fast bowler said.
“It is very important that we keep speaking the right language in the team environment. Staying nice and positive, anything can happen in sport. We just need to get as much momentum as we can into the next game. We definitely not out of it. Definitely not!”
For South Africa to remain breathing in this series they will need their senior core to step up. While runs will undoubtedly help Markram settle into his leadership role, and for all the excitement and optimism around expected Newlands debutant Heinrich Klaasen and Khaya Zondo, it is not their responsibility to win matches for South Africa just yet.
A substantial contribution from former Test captain Hashim Amla would be very welcoming at the top of the order – not only in terms of runs but also the calming effect his presence at the crease creates when the spinners are weaving their magical web.
A good start will also go a long way in helping South Africa to avoid losing five wickets or more with the score barely into three figures, as they have done on both occasions in this series.
Amla, though, should not shoulder this burden alone. JP Duminy and David Miller have played for the Proteas, and in fact in the Indian Premier League, long enough not to be entranced by Chahal or Yadav.
India are certainly aware of South Africa’s current spin woes, with opener Shikhar Dhawan stressing the visitors will look to keep their foot on the throat of their hosts.
“It is difficult to play wrist-spinners because they can turn the ball on flat tracks also. And when the ball starts turning, the overseas players especially aren’t very used to it. That can create doubts in batsmen’s minds, which is why they are effective,” Dhawan said.
“I won’t say it’s a lack of patience. You’re playing one-day cricket so you have to score some runs. If you defend 50 balls and don’t score, then that’s of no use. They are losing a lot of wickets in the middle, which is why they can’t get to the targets they are trying to make.”
Squads for Newlands:
South Africa: Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo, Farhaan Behardien, Heinrich Klaasen (wk).
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.
Did you know?
South Africa and India have played three ODI’s previously at Newlands, with India only having won once since 1992.
India are seeking to win 3 consecutive ODI’s on South African soil for the first time.
Newlands is South Africa’s favourite ODI venue, with the Proteas winning 28 out of 33 ODI’s under Table Mountain.