The Proteas face another examination of their mental strength in International Cricket Council (ICC) global tournaments when they participate in the ICC Champions Trophy in England in June. There is a belief that historically the Proteas have not been mentally strong enough to win these tournaments, despite their continued success in bilateral series.
There is also a perception that South Africa has never won an ICC global event but that is incorrect. The Proteas won what was called the ICC Knock-Out Trophy, the forerunner to the Champions Trophy, in Bangladesh in 1998. However, in reality, over the years the Proteas have promised much but failed to deliver at ICC events like the World Cup, Champions Trophy and World T20.
The Proteas have as good a chance as any of the other eight teams participating to win the Champions Trophy because no country has a dominant international team. It will come down to what happens on the day with regards to the “rub of the green” and which team wants it the most – mental strength.
The Proteas are in a group with the subcontinent teams India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The first hurdle will be negotiating the sub-continent teams’ spin bowlers and it is common knowledge that South Africans are not the best players of spin bowling. Then there are four players who need to have a good tournament if the Proteas are to lift the trophy. They are AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and Imran Tahir.
The two openers, Amla and De Kock, will need to maximise the power play overs and those bowled by the seamers, as there will be more spin bowled than would normally be expected in England. De Villiers, with his so called 360⁰ batting ability, will be vital in the middle overs to ensure competitive (or better) totals. In the bowling department, Imran Tahir holds the key with his ability to take wickets and bowl economically. The number one ranked ODI bowler will be vital in the bowling unit.
The Proteas play England in a three match ODI series before the Champions Trophy and they need to use this opportunity to establish the right playing combination and build their confidence by winning the series.
Faf du Plessis and his team have a good opportunity to shed the “chokers” tag by winning the Champions Trophy.