Series whitewash hasn’t dimmed Walter’s belief in Proteas’ title chances

Heinrich Klaasen joined the Proteas in the US last night after a successful run with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. | IANS

Heinrich Klaasen joined the Proteas in the US last night after a successful run with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL. | IANS

Published May 29, 2024


Ongama Gcwabe

SOUTH Africa were handed a 3-0 series whitewash by West Indies last week in Jamaica.

As much as it is never ideal to lose matches going into World Cups, the series saw an inexperienced SA side take on a seasoned West Indies outfit in their own backyard.

Apart from Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen, there wasn't any real experience in the 15-man squad as most of the players were touring the Caribbean for the first time. As a result, four debutants in Ryan Rickelton, Ottneil Baartman, Nqabayomzi Peter and Patrick Kruger were handed their maiden T20I caps in Kingston.

“(My) assessment of the series? Obviously it was a tough one. Both teams (were) missing some key players,” Proteas white-ball coach Rob Walter said yesterday.

“It was still a great opportunity for the younger guys that came across to play against some world-class T20 players. These tours are never unnecessary and you get great value out of them for the guys who get to play.”

Marco Jansen. | Backpagepix

Ideally, any coach would like to have all his players available for the last bilateral series before the World Cup. However, with the Indian Premier League (IPL) clashing with the West Indies series, Walter had to make the most of the trip to the Caribbean.

Only the England and Wales Cricket Board pulled its players out of the IPL, aiming to use the ongoing series against Pakistan as the final preparation for the World Cup in the US and West Indies.

“Would I like the preparation for the World Cup to look a lot different?” Walter asked. ”Of course I would.

“As a head coach, the ideal is to have your players together, to have a nice lead-in, do things the way you want to do them and get yourself ready for the World Cup. But that’s not our reality.

“We’re in a different position in terms of having access to those players. There are a number of reasons for that and some of it is above my pay grade.

“The 50-over World Cup looked very different to this but it is what it is and these are the cards that are dealt, so we have to be ready. There are other teams that are in a similar position to us so we can’t bemoan our situation, we’re going to have to focus on what’s in front of us.”

However, the Proteas World Cup squad is filled with seasoned professionals including Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock, who have been to a number of T20 World Cup events in the past.

Moreover, Walter’s squad has the benefit of having played alongside each other for many years. Baartman and Rickelton are really the odd ones out, having only just started their international careers.

Aiden Markram. | IANS

Despite wishing he had his squad together early for a proper preparation, Walter takes comfort in the experience of the players and the level of professionalism that they possess. The 48-year-old believes the characters in this group of players have what it takes to win the World Cup.

“For the most part, you’re dealing with a side who have a lot of experience from a T20 point of view,” he said.

“I’m comfortable with that. I’m comfortable with the players and the maturity that they have. Absolutely, (I) believe we can win the World Cup. I believe we’ve got the players to do that.”

Proteas captain Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and Marco Jansen joined the rest of the team in the US last night because of their involvement in Sunday’s IPL final.

The side will take part in an intra-squad match today at the Broward County Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Walter added that all 15 players in the squad are expected to be free of niggles and fit to play in the tournament.

This is after the news that Rabada returned home prematurely from the IPL due to a soft tissue infection, while Anrich Nortje missed the first T20 in Jamaica due to a lower-back spasm.

Baartman missed two games last week while Tabraiz Shamsi did not play a single game, both as a precautionary measure.