Over the years the South African men’s cricket team, also known as the Proteas, has been a force to be reckoned with in international cricket. At present, in tests, it is the top team and in one-dayers too it is on top of the pile. However, when it comes to big tournaments it has always come a cropper in the knockout stages earning itself the label of chokers. The only international cricket tournament that it has ever won is the 1998 ICC Knockout Trophy, the first edition of the Champions Trophy. This year things could have been different but it seems they may have got off on the wrong foot by the surprise withdrawal of their talismanic allrounder Jacques Kallis.
Much like what Andrew Flintoff used to do for England during the 2000s, Kallis lends the side some much needed balance. With him, they can play an extra batsman or a bowler according to the need of the hour. However, it has been learnt that he has withdrawn owing to personal reasons, to reassess his future after the ongoing IPL. This will not be music to the ears for South African selectors and the cricket lovers who, for years, have come to rely on him. The one person who could have replaced him was Albie Morkel but somehow he has been overlooked by South African selectors who regard him as a non performer when in national colors.
So, let’s take a look at the side and see how much of a challenge the team will mount at the 2013 Champions Trophy. Like all the other teams, batting will be a major area of strength for South Africa with AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, David Miller and Graeme Smith. No matter whom among these take the field it will be the team to beat. However, the selection of Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy could be dicey given that they are returning from injury and their replacements Ingram and Miller have been in good form. Both batsmen are however handy bowlers and this may tilt the scales in their favor.
Even in the absence of Kallis, South Africa has a versatile pace attack. The fiery pace duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, rated by many, and justifiably so, as the best in the modern game, will be supported by Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLean and Lonwabo Tsotsobe. The spin bowling will be handled by the left arm duo of Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso. I personally think that Vernon Philander or even Kyle Abbott or Chris Morris would have been better choices than Lonwabo Tsotsobe. However Tsotsobe has been a wicket taker at the international level and this may have prompted the selectors to go for him.
All in all, it looks like a good team that can go all the distance. But for that to happen it shall need to find the right balance.