One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

An interesting news over the weekend was that South Africa 'managed' to lose to the state champions Western Province in the first of their 'warm-up' games. They set the state side a measly target of 156 runs. Most of the runs were scored by the lower order batsmen as the top order failed miserably and at one stage were 69 for 6. All of it was in vain as even the bowlers couldn't make a game of it with Neil Johnson scoring 71 off 53 balls.

Coming to think of it, the Indians have their warm-up game tomorrow against KwaZulu-Natal. A convincing victory should not only raise our confidence but would also make other teams wary of us. Anyways, any team who writes off India would be doing so at its own peril.

Coming back to South Africa, they have an excellent World Cup record and once again start as one of the favourites. They have home advantage as well and they would be very keen to get rid of the 'chokers' tag that has been placed on them especially after the games against Australia and the ICC Champions Trophy semi final game against India. South Africa was also hard done by the rain restriction rules in place during 1992 and suffered in the semi-final game against England. Their performances in World Cups to-date stands thus ...
1992 Semi-finals
1996 Quarter-finals
1999 Semi-finals

A highly enviable record, but a clear case of 'so near, yet so far'.

This year they look well placed in group B, with Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand as their main rivals for the Super Six slot. I think they should top their group with ease with only NZ providing some resistance. West Indies could catch them sleeping as it is their first game, but I am sure South Africa should tackle them well enough.

The players to watch with the bat would be Gibbs, Kallis and (back-again) Kirsten. Dippenaar has been selected but is not too consistent with the bat for a number 3. Jonty Rhodes, a very under-rated batsman, has played quite a few key innings recently and has a habit of keeping opposite fielders on their toes by constantly stealing singles. Followed by Boje, Boucher, Zulu and Pollock, it is a formidable batting line-up. As far as the bowling is concerned there isn't much variety with Nicky Boje the only spin option, but Donald's experience, Pollock's consistency, and the sheer pace of Hayward and Ntini should see them through many matches.

The only worry is that Klusener is now a pale shadow of what he was in 1999 and South Africa would need him to fire if it harbours any hopes of avenging its defeat to Australia four years back. Can you believe that in the last 'warm-up' game, although Zulu got 19 runs off 43 odd balls ... they were all singles !!! That alone underlines the lack of confidence in the man.

South Africa proved that they would go to any extreme to get the trophy, by imparting commando-style training to all players in the remote jungles of the country with neither a bat or ball in sight. This seems to have backfired with all the players looking rusty in the game against the Western Province plus Donald has got a "tightness in his buttock muscle" (hee hee!!) with all the training there.

I think they would all do well to get rid of their commando fatigues and get in their cricketing gears, pronto !!!

The South African XV

Batsmen: Gary Kirsten, Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Jonty Rhodes
All rounders: Shaun Pollock (captain), Nicky Boje, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Lance Klusener, Robin Peterson
Bowlers: Allan Donald, Charl Langeveldt, Makhaya Ntini, Monde Zondeki
Wicket keeper: Mark Boucher

As usual all comments welcome.

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