South Africa’s World Cup chances

South Africa have won the 2015 ICC Cricket World cup. And the tournament has not even started yet. At least that is what seems to be the consensus. AB de Villiers’ blitz and Nellikkai/Rossouw double act have made one of the favourites the overwhelming favourites. Some issues here:

  • Does anybody realize that the opposition is West Indies?
  • Whose best bowler is out with injury.
  • A team, if you can call them that, struggling with player/board issues.
  • A bowling attack that has exactly 2 bowlers who have more than 50 wickets in ODIs.
  • A reluctant captain who is less than a year old in international cricket.
  • A team that last beat South Africa in 2006 (15 losses and a tie).
  • They are, and I can’t believe I have to say this, AT HOME AGAINST THIS POWERFUL ATTACK!!!!!

The South African batting lineup is made to look much^infinity times better than it really is by this bowling. AB de Villiers, absolutely brilliant though he is, is never ever going to go as wild as he did in that 2nd ODI. He just kept swinging and connecting. Maybe lightning will strike twice but I really doubt it. Australian grounds are much bigger than South African ones and most of his mishits that went over the ropes will likely be caught at the boundary. In Nellikkai and de Villiers, South Africa have two of probably the 5 best batsmen in ODIs but otherwise it is talented but inexperienced. Australia isn’t exactly a batting paradise so they will have a hard time getting the runs.

Their bowling is likely to be the key to their success. Steyn/Morkel/Philander is a formidable attack but this is one day cricket people. Batsmen will not give them the respect they get in test matches. It will be plant your foot forward and whack. Steyn’s economy rate is 5.63 and Morkel’s is 5.73 in Australia. They are not unhittable. Australia is a spinners’ graveyard. Tahir* is a horrible spinner. Ian Salisbury is a better spinner than him. South Africa open their pursuit of their first ICC trophy since 1998 against Zimbabwe in Hamilton. If they end up batting first, I expect this pre-mature ejaculation over them to continue.

I have not even mentioned their fantastic record in choking at various tournaments. South Africa have won a grand total of 4 knock-out matches in all ICC tournaments since their re-entry. 3 of those wins came in their lone ICC success – the first ever ICC Knock-out, now known as the ICC Champions trophy. The other win came in the next ICC knock-out. They are yet to win a single knock-out match in the world cup. Hell, England and West Indies have won more knock-out matches than South Africa in both the world cup and the champions trophy.

Until South Africa win a knock-out round match, which they last did in 2000, I will not call them favourites. I am disinclined to call them chokers because most of the current side is inexperienced and does not seem to have the baggage the previous teams carried. The Proteas were also hammered 4-1 barely a couple of months ago in the country where the world cup is, you know, going to take place. Steyn/Philander/Morkel could not prevent Australia from scoring 300+ totals in 2 out of 3 matches the trio played together. To be fair, they bowled Australia out for 154 in that other ODI.

In my opinion, Australia rightly start as favourites. They have a Sehwagesque opener in Warner and Steve Smith in the form of his life and a capable lower order of Maxwell/Faulker/Bailey and I haven’t even mentioned Watson and Finch. Johnson/Hazlewood/Starc is as good a bowling trio as the aforementioned Saffa trio. The only Oz weakness seems to be in the spin department but given that the tourney is in the spinners’ graveyard it should not be too much of an issue. Inexperience and home pressure is the only thing that prevents me from calling them overwhelming favourites. They have, in my opinion, the best batting and the best bowling. Last I heard, you need two of those to win tournaments.

The Kiwis are probably the next favourites. I rarely see anyone mention this but New Zealand have more semi-final appearances(6) in the world cup than South Africa(3), England(5) and West Indies(4). Unfortunately, they have never made the finals.  In fact ever since South Africa’s re-entry this is how the Kiwis have fared with respect to South Africa.

Tournament New Zealand South Africa
1992 SF SF
1996 QF QF
1999 SF SF
2003 Super Six Group Stages
2007 SF SF
2011 SF QF

They have matched or bettered South Africa in every single tournament and lead the head to head 4-2. I cannot be believe they are not favoured over the Proteas. They have a good bunch of seamers ably supported by Daniel Vettori. Almost all their batsmen are in great nick and they are absolutely pummeling a team far superior to the Windies. To be fair again, Sri Lanka do not travel well but no one in his/her right mind would call the oriental islanders worse than the occidental islanders.

Australia, New Zealand, South Africa are 1-2-3 to win la copa de mundial del cricket in my not so humble opinion. India’s chances are highly dependent on how their bowling will be. Kohli and “best finisher ever” Dhoni supported by Rahane, Rohit makes the batting pretty damn good. Our Indian experts are so good at predicting doom but the batting will not be a problem. Even in the test series preceding this world cup the batting did not fail. Indian fans need to R-E-L-A-X about the batting but W-O-R-R-Y about the bowling. The best bet for India is bowl first, pray the bowling gets them a target between 250-320 and hope 2 of those men make it count.

Having said all that I do expect South Africa to make at least the semis. They will, as usual, cruise through the group stages and finish top. England will, in all likelihood, finish 4th in the other group. A golden opportunity to get to the last four. If they lose to England, which is not that unlikely, South Africa will probably never win the world cup in my lifetime! Be afraid Proteas, be very afraid ;-)!

Note: Gooseberry is called Amla in hindi and nellikkai in tamizh.

*I stand corrected on Imran Tahir. He still is a horrible spinner but only in tests. When it comes to ODIs & T20s he makes Murali look like Ian Salisbury. Just superb.

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