The Proteas are relatively wealthy when it comes to wicket-taking bowling stocks and this will be a crucial strength at
the World Cup in England starting at the end of May, according to former South African captain and fast-bowling all-rounder Shaun Pollock.
South Africa’s leading ODI wicket-taker, with 387 in 294 matches, began his international career as a tearaway fast-bowling wicket-taker, before changing into the most reliable of containing bowlers, and played in four World Cups.
But Pollock says taking wickets will be the key to success in this year’s tournament.
“In 1999 in England we thought the pitches would be seamer-friendly and with the amount of rain over there you expect overhead conditions to play a role as well. But the pitches for the World Cup are almost over-prepared, the groundsmen flattened them out as much as possible. Spin will certainly play a part, especially with the strips being used over and over again because of TV.
“So I would have four out-andout bowlers, plus an all-rounder and JP Duminy to bowl three or four overs. You want to have wicket-takers through the 50 overs, that’s ideal. India use two spinners in that role and other teams have mystery spinners as well, while we have Dale Steyn, who can both contain and take wickets, which Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi can both do too, and Imran Tahir is probably our best at keeping the run-rate down, but he’s a wicket-taker as well.
“In the first 10 overs, two guys are bound to walk in and try and give the ball a smack, and in the middle overs when you’re only allowed four fielders out, you also need to get batsmen out in order to prevent a team being too aggressive. And then at the death, it’s vital to be able to clean up batsmen with yorkers. Batsmen are not going to go into their shells, so you have to keep taking wickets,” Pollock said in Johannesburg as part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy Tour.
But Pollock does not consider South Africa to be one of the favourites, instead giving that tag to India and England and rather grouping the Proteas with four other teams that could claim cricket’s greatest prize.
“I think it’s going to be one of the hardest World Cups to predict, with 10 teams and playing everyone once in a round-robin, which is very fair.
“Australia are also struggling but the return of David Warner and Steve Smith will have a big impact for them, and New Zealand always punch above their weight at World Cups. India and England are the two favourites, but I think South Africa can definitely make the semifinals, and then it’s all about knockout cricket. It’s going to be thoroughly entertaining!” Pollock said.