The World Cup lesson the Proteas can learn from their batting guru

South African batting coach Dale Benkenstein during South African national cricket team training session at PPC Newlands on January 01, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)

Dale Benkenstein was a member of the 1999 squad … and a ‘victim’ of that team’s one big failing.

If the Proteas need proof of the importance of a squad effort in the World Cup, they can have a short chat with batting coach Dale Benkenstein, who was a player in the 1999 tournament, the last one to be staged in England.

South Africa famously bowed out in the semifinals after tying their match with Australia, who went through due to a superior net run rate.

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But there are many who believe the crucial result was the shock 48-run loss to Zimbabwe in Chelmsford in their final groupstage match, which meant SA carried just two points through to the Super Sixes, as opposed to their neighbour’s four.

What made the Zimbabwe result more disappointing was how flat the Proteas performance was.

They had already ensured they would advance to the Super Sixes after four wins in a row, but instead of freshening up his side and bringing unused players into the starting XI, captain Hansie Cronje insisted on playing the same team, resulting in a lethargic showing.

Benkenstein, Derek Crookes and Alan Dawson did not play a game in the entire tournament, when they would probably have supplied a crucial spark had they been used against Zimbabwe.

“We’ve been speaking to Dale and he has fond memories of ’99. It was a great side that played some exciting cricket, even though it was disappointing how it ended.

“But the evidence is there and you’ll see that we hardly ever go through a series with the same team.

“You have to make sure you’re prepared for different scenarios and the players have been entrusted with different roles,” said assistant coach Malibongwe Maketa.

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“We’ve even had Imran Tahir opening the bowling.

“You have to adapt and be flexible according to the opposition.

“We have a very open mindset and haven’t picked any sides yet.

“We have coaches who have worked in England and know the conditions, and everyone must be mentally ready to play the next game and bring positive energy.

“Whoever steps on the field can be man of the match – that’s the mindset.”

All indications are that this will be the highest-scoring World Cup, but Maketa said this does not concern the Proteas.

“I know the pitches are looking quite flat in England, but that does not make that much difference to us.

“We’re blessed with our attack to not have to chase those sort of totals.

“The maximum we want to chase is not much more than 300 and it’s always our plan to take wickets to slow down teams.”

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