A series of tactical mistakes and poor selections have seen South Africa fail in an ICC event - again.
There may not have been the pressure of public expectations, there may not have been the
favourites tag that had been bestowed on them in the past, there may not have been mass-predictions of a tournament victory for South Africa, but there could have been – had they got their plans right.
For a start, there where the bold squad selections that conservative South African selectors
would have not chosen in the past.
Beuran Hendricks – the bowler of the tournament in the South African domestic T20
competition was selected. In the past he would have fallen into the South African conservative safety net of “he’s too young” or “he’s not ready”.
Albie Morkel – the global T20 freelancer – was selected. South Africa have never picked the
T20 freelancers, many a South African commentator and journalist see the art of playing in all the T20 leagues as a sin as an act of a mercenary. Perhaps the fact that South Africa have been the best Test side for some time, they feel an obligation to detest the shorter format and its specialists whilst saving and promoting the longer format.
Unfortunately, the squad had several flaws. A batsman light, and probably a bowling all-rounder light too. When it came down to the match XIs, the trouble began.
Hashim Amla is not seen by many as a natural T20 player, one would have to ask the question
of would he make the T20 side of any of the other seven major Test nations? Probably not. But for a remarkable innings by JP Duminy and a heroic final over by Dale Steyn, Amla’s pedestrian run-a-ball 41 against New Zealand would have cost South Africa the game. A top-order slow start against Sri Lanka cost South Africa top spot – and how vital that turned out to be.
The rest of the batting line-up left many a South African fan, commentator and journalist alike
puzzled and scratching their heads. Even commentators from other nations all made the same remarks. The batting line-up was straight out of 2004.
AB De Villiers was batting at five. Far too low. His one innings at three - against England - was a match-winning knock. Whilst India had Virat Kohli batting at three, South Africa had AB De Villiers batting at five, the difference in the semi-final.
South Africa must to learn that with just 20 overs, your best batsmen have to have as
much time at the crease as possible to influence a game. Five T20 World Cup
campaigns later and they still seem unable to heed this advice.
The two big-hitters hardly got a chance to enhance and live-up to their reputations. David Miller was batting at six, Albie Morkel at seven. It did neither one any favours, nor did it to any for the team.
Both should have been in the top five, with an Amla or a Duminy or a Du Plessis to float up
the order if the wickets fell early on or float down if the top three had laid a platform for Morkel and Miller to come in.
Such was the misuse of Miller that his biggest contribution to the team was a series
of breathtaking catches and vital boundary-stopping fielding against New Zealand, Netherlands and England – games South Africa won by six runs or less.
Morkel’s misuse even begs the question as to why he was even selected. Batting at seven, South Africa used Morkel as a bowling all-rounder rather than a batting one. If a bowling all-rounder was what they required then they should have picked one in Ryan MacLaren, Vernon Philander or Rory Kleinveldt.
This is not the first time Albie Morkel and AB De Villiers has been misused at the World T20, it happened in 2009 and 2012 as well, where Albie Morkel once batted as low as eight, De Villiers as low as six on one occasion.
Justin Kemp, despite stellar performances as a big-hitter in South Africa’s domestic cricket
as well as a drastic improvement on his bowling should have made the squad, the
long tail batting against Sri Lanka in the opening game was proof that the side needed another genuine all-rounder.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe is another of those players falling into the ‘would they make one of the other T20 national teams?’ bracket. Kyle Abbott had a far more convincing domestic T20 campaign.
Perhaps South Africa, had they been a more innovative cricketing nation might have recognised Alfonso Thomas’ bowling exploits all around the world in all the various T20 and limited-overs competitions before he signed his Kolpak-deal with Somerset. But sometimes the biggest mistakes are the ones that come back to hurt the most – perhaps the biggest lesson South Africa may have learnt from this edition of the ICC World T20.
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