Proteas World Cup squad a stew with spice

21 April 2019 - 00:00 By TELFORD VICE

Romantic notions don't win the World Cup. So there's no sense pining about the absence of Reeza Hendricks or Chris Morris from South Africa's squad for the tournament.
Who doesn't drop their beer at the slick power of Hendricks' slog sweep, or the audacity of his cover drive? Who doesn't stop what they're doing to see Morris, all arms and legs, beat batters for pace with what looks like ease and lash bowlers down the ground, his elbow poking a hole in their egos as well as in the sky?
Hendricks and Morris have what, when we can't think of a better term, we call the X-factor. Thing is, more than anything else, it's the Z-factor that wins games of one-day cricket. As in Zzzzzzz...
Australia are the most predictable team on the planet. You could set your watch by how boringly excellent they are. That's why they've won the World Cup five of the 11 times it has been staged; more than anyone else.
Only once in the last five editions of the tournament have the Australians not ambled to triumph. That was in 2011, when India won thanks to a couple of dull uncles called MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar.
So do not despair that South Africa have pinned their colours to dependability and not to dazzle. Besides, the truth is they have always won worthily rather than wonderfully. But take heart that Ottis Gibson has made them think hard about how they prefer to get things done.
Selection convenor Linda Zondi summed up that healthy tension at the squad's announcement in Johannesburg on Thursday: "Part of [Gibson's] philosophy was playing confident cricket. For years, as South Africa, we played conservative cricket."
That approach has taken them as far as the World Cup semifinals, which they reached four years ago against New Zealand in Auckland.
Seven of the XI on that fateful day/night - Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, David Miller, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir - are among the 15 Zondi and his panel have chosen to have another go.
That they have come through that scalding experience well enough to remain unarguably among the best players at South Africa's disposal is to their credit.
Indeed, those players have emerged intact from 2015 and all that so well they are able to look the imminent challenge squarely in the eyes. Or, as Steyn told reporters in Kolkata this week: "If you're not going to the World Cup expecting to win, then you probably shouldn't go."
Kagiso Rabada probably doesn't expect to do anything else but win the 2019 World Cup. That, no doubt, also goes for Andile Phehlukwayo and Rassie van der Dussen.They strut the kind of stuff not often seen from South Africans, a brand of confidence and belief that we don't want to call Australian, but is undoubtedly exactly that.Might they add spice to the stew without diluting its required stodginess?Cricket South Africa president Chris Nenzani would seem to think so: "We're looking for players who are prepared to die on the field for their country."What a silly idea. Romantic, even.

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