Johannesburg - The Proteas believe that their spinners will have a role to play at the T20 World Cup, regardless of the conditions in Australia that traditionally favour fast bowling.
Both Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi, were targeted by the Indian batters in the five match series that finished 2-2 last weekend, but Proteas head coach Mark Boucher, felt there were mitigating circumstances and that discarding one or both from the starting team would not benefit the Proteas.
“India plays spin really well. They have their own way of playing it. We played them, albeit in One-Day cricket (in SA) earlier this year, in conditions that really turned, and our spinners dominated. We felt that was the way to go about things. India have a different pattern that they like to play against spin, especially in T20s,” Boucher explained.
Maharaj and Shamsi both conceded runs at a rate of more than 10 an over, with Shamsi lacking the potency for which he is known, as he claimed just one wicket in 10 overs across the four matches. He was dropped for the decider in Bengaluru last Sunday, with Boucher citing conditions - which don’t traditionally favour spin and which were further exacerbated by the rain - for doing so.
Nevertheless a World Cup in Australia, on bigger grounds and even at some venues which provide further assistance, will see the pair very much part of the equation at the tournament. “If you look at the records in the Big Bash (Australia’s T20 tournament), there are quite a few grounds where spinners have played a major role. We are looking at each venue differently; at certain grounds there is very good reason to play two spinners, and other grounds won’t suit that,” Boucher remarked. .
The Proteas have the options to cover virtually all eventualities, but as the Indian series showed, Aiden Markram is an extremely important part of the composition of the starting eleven, whichever direction South Africa choose to go in. Markram missed all five matches after contracting Covid-19.
The balance he provides, means South Africa has sufficient depth in their batting, and skipper Temba Bavuma has more options with the ball. “Ideally I don’t want to go into any game with five batters, I like to play six batters; but when Aiden was out, we lost our sixth bowling option,” said Boucher.
That necessitated a re-arranging of the batting order with Dwaine Pretorius slotting in at no.3 - a move that worked in the first match. “It’s not the first time he’s done that, he did it for Paarl Rocks. He came off in the first game and they learnt how to bowl to him after that,” said Boucher. “We won’t have the situation where Dwaine will consistently be the no.3 batter, but it was good to trial it and see if it's possible to do it for one game in the future. We got a few answers there.”
Of course with Markram available, it means the Proteas could go into a match with just one frontline spinner, because he can bowl some off-spin. That would allow for some tinkering with the bowling.
“We’ve got options,” said Boucher. “We have good depth, with regards to all different aspects; fast bowling, seam bowling and spinners and it's now about getting the right balance going into Australia and then not taking too much out of all these other series because conditions will be different.”
Those other series will be in Ireland and England and another set of matches against India followed by a couple of warm-up matches before the World Cup - which Boucher said would be their most important matches before the tournament.
The players will have a break for a week, before ramping up fitness work ahead of the tour to England next month.