South Africa has started their Cricket World Cup preparations in Zimbabwe and there have been some encouraging signs. As expected, they easily defeated Zimbabwe in the three match ODI series and won the Triangular with Australia. Of the eight matches they won seven and beat Australia twice.
The Proteas now have ODI tours to Australia where they play five matches and to New Zealand, where they play three matches, in preparation for the Australasia World Cup in February and March 2015. They then conclude their preparations with five ODI’S against the West Indies in South Africa.
The South African team that leaves for the 2015 World Cup will have been better prepared than any of their six predecessors that have participated since the country’s first World Cup in 1992. Cricket South Africa and the team management must be congratulated on leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the Proteas have their best chance of winning a World Cup that has eluded them for twenty three years.
With the current playing strengths of world cricket any of the top eight teams can win the 2015 World Cup. This will make for an enthralling event Down Under. The Proteas have as good a chance as any other teams. Most of their big matches will be played in Australia and the conditions there will suit the Proteas as it will be next best to playing in South Africa. However, New Zealand will provide a different challenge for the Proteas because of the slow nature of their wickets.
The Proteas will need to address certain positions in the team to get the balance right. The late middle order in Zimbabwe was a concern because of the lack of a genuine bowling all-rounder. However, Vernon Philander’s return from injury should solve this problem.
The other problem they need to resolve is that when they play two spinners, the second spinner must be able to bat. It is difficult seeing both Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso being included in the squad as neither can be considered a bowling all-rounder. Robin Peterson’s inclusion in the squad will solve this problem as he is a very resourceful and experienced player having played in three World Cups.
In the batting department the middle order remains a concern against spin bowling and they will need to improve in this area. David Miller at number six has still not cemented his place after 51 ODI’S. He has a good strike rate, but his average and consistency will need to improve. The pre-World Cup Australasia tours to Australia and New Zealand will be important for him.
The biggest challenge facing the Proteas will be their ability to play under pressure, especially in the knockout stages. In six tournaments the Proteas are yet to win a knock out match. If they can overcome this mental hurdle it could well be their year to shed the World Cup “chokers” tag that has followed them since 1992.