Cape Town - Rob Walter may be heading off to the bush where there hopefully is no cellphone reception later on Monday, but he will certainly be keeping a close eye on his Proteas at the Indian Premier League in the upcoming weeks.
The Proteas white-ball coach closed off a successful ODI series against the Netherlands over the weekend where his team gained the all-important 20 ICC Super League points to put them firmly in contention to book the final automatic slot for the World Cup in India later this year.
Only Ireland now stands a chance of equalling the Proteas’ 98 points through a potential 3-0 cleansweep of Bangladesh in May. Furthermore, the comprehensive nature of the two victories over the Dutch has elevated the Proteas’ net run-rate to -0.077, which Ireland will be hard pushed to replicate as they are currently on -0.382.
“Always good to get a series victory. Another important 20 points in the context of qualifying for the World Cup, which was hugely important. So, happy that we got the job done there,” Walter said after the 146-run victory over the Dutch in the “Pink ODI” at the Wanderers that sealed the 2-0 result.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Proteas ODI outfit as they had appeared destined to finish outside of the top eight on the ICC Super League table, which would have meant a trip up north to Zimbabwe in June for the ICC Qualifiers tournament alongside the Associate Nations.
While they are not entirely out of the woods just yet, they have managed to drag them off themselves off the canvas with a remarkable 2-1 home series win over world champions England in January that really set the tone for the summer.
The drawn ODI series against the Windies did not have any Super League points on offer which allowed Walter to test the depth of his squad as he fielded some younger players and rested some of his senior pacemen, but they were all back fully recharged to take care of the Dutch.
Walter, who has been in New Zealand for the previous seven years, believes the reinvigoration of his team, and the greater South African cricket context, is due to the positive energy that the inaugural SA20 generated at the start of 2023.
"We can't underestimate the impact of the SA20 on cricket in South Africa. Just the general interest in the game. The crowds were significant and the quality of cricket was high," Walter said.
“There was some momentum coming out of that and we were able to jump on that against England and that continued on. We've played some nice cricket but by no means our best cricket and that's the exciting part.
"We've spoken about how we're in a privileged position to inspire our country and unite our country through sport. To see the difference in the people who are watching the game has been awesome as well."
The Proteas don’t have any immediate commitments with a large number of players having headed off to India to fulfil their IPL commitments.
Having worked at the IPL previously too with the Delhi Daredevils (now Capitals) and the now defunct Pune Warriors, Walter knows the value of the multi-national tournament for his Proteas players, especially with the World Cup set to be staged in India.
"I think the main thing is to make sure that each player has a clear directive in terms of what they would like to get out of it for South Africa. It’s a great opportunity for our players to play under pressure, to develop their skills," he said.
"It's a high level of cricket that they are playing all the time. There is a skill development area, but there is also an element of how they handle high pressure situations."