Is South Africa back at its best?

Cricket South Africa has been in a state of transition for the last few years. The retirement of great modern-day cricketers like Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, etc, led to a huge void in the team.

The apartheid issues in the country have also affected their cricket. The cricketers through the Kolpak deal opt to play county cricket in England or migrate to other countries like New Zealand (Devon Conway).

The team has been a work in progress ever since. However, recently the ‘Proteas’ seemed to have found their groove. They have played high-quality cricket across all formats in both home and overseas conditions.

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South Africa seems to be a dark horse in the upcoming T20 WC. The Australian pitches will suit the Proteas and they will try their best to stamp their authority. However, is it safe to say that South Africa is back at its best?

Resurgence and recent performances

SA played exceptionally well in the 2021 T20 World Cup. They won 4 out of the 5 matches but could not qualify for the semis due to a relatively less net run rate. The Proteas made an impression on fans and experts with their clinical performances on difficult UAE pitches.

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South Africa has been on a tear ever since. They defeated a determined team India by 2-1 in Tests despite losing the first test. They then whitewashed India by 3-0 in the ODI series. SA played exceptionally well in their overseas stint as well. They tied a test series against New Zealand by 1-1 and a T20 series against India by 2-2. They were able to do so despite the unavailability of some of their key players. What has made them this dangerous?

A proper mix of multi-dimensional cricketers and one-format specialists

South Africa has a fantastic mix of players who play all formats yet have single format specialists as well. Skipper Temba Bavuma has been one of the main reasons behind South Africa’s resurgence. He captains the team in all formats.

Key batsmen like Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen play all formats but have a special skill set of their own. Markram is currently number 3 in the list of ICC T20 batsman rankings. Rassie van der Dussen, on the other hand, has an unbelievable average of 71 in 35 ODIs.

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Senior players like Quinton De Kock and David Miller have completely shifted their focus on the limited over format. Explosive batsman Janneman Malan averages 59 in ODIs and plays only one-day cricket. On the other hand, SA has Keegan Peterson, who is considered to be the next big thing in Test cricket. The number three batsman has shown some crisp technique and has all the qualities of a test specialist. Kyle Verreynne handles the gloves in test cricket. The 25-year-old has shown great potential in his short career. Duanne Olivier serves as a bowler in Tests. They also have T20 specialists like Reeza Hendricks, Tristian Stubbs, Dwaine Pretorius, and Wayne Parnell.

South Africa has a dangerous and complete bowling line-up

The bowling quartet of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, and Keshav Maharaj play all formats. Kagiso Rabada is undoubtedly one of the best bowlers in the world. He can extract swing and bounce even on a dead flat pitch. Lungi Ngidi is known for his pinpoint accuracy and swing. Anrich Nortje can consistently hit the 145-150 mark. However, they still have a formidable option of Marco Jansen when needed. The 22-year-old came in as a replacement for Anrich Nortje in tests against India. Jansen shocked everyone by becoming the highest wicket-taker for SA in that series. They are blessed with seam-bowling all-rounders like Jansen, Dwaine Pretorius, and Wayne Parnell who can contribute some handy runs with the bat.

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They also have decent spinners with the flexibility of playing George Linde in tests and Tabrez Shamsi in limit overs format. 

The benchmarks set by the legends of South Africa are certainly difficult to match. However, it is quite evident that this particular team has what it takes. They have the potential to do what the vintage South African team couldn’t do, TO WIN A WORLD CUP!

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