Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the US, supposedly said that if one fails to prepare then one should prepare to fail, so it is not surprising that the Proteas have put an emphasis on fielding in their preparations in England for their opening World Cup match against the hosts in a week’s time.
South Africa have long been world leaders in the art of fielding, ever since the days of Colin Bland.
Jonty Rhodes amazed the world when he exploded on the scene in the 1992 World Cup and for two decades, fielding was something that gave the Proteas a notable edge in tight games.
Following in the footsteps of Rhodes were players like Derek Crookes, current batting coach Dale Benkenstein, Herschelle Gibbs, the ambidextrous Robin Peterson, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Johan Botha, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and David Miller, who have all been amongst the best fielders at previous World Cups.
The mercurial Gibbs though did have a vital lapse in the 1999 edition, when he dropped Aussie captain Steve Waugh in their final second stage game, who then went on to score 120 and secure the Baggy Greens’ semifinal berth.
But lately, South Africa’s fielding has failed to inspire and, of the current World Cup squad, only Aiden Markram is a young gun who will cause any trepidation amongst batsmen trying to sneak a single in the inner ring.
“South Africa have always been in the top three in the world in terms of fielding, but in this World Cup the other teams have caught up and everyone is on a par.
“So we’re not taking it for granted, in previous World Cups fielding has been very important, it has provided defining moments.
“So we’re preparing for those, making sure we’re ready and the energy is really good.
“We have to make sure we hit the stumps and take our catches when those big moments come.
“It’s about taking those opportunities, it’s really important and we’re always working very hard on our fielding.
“We have to be prepared for anything, even using hand-warmers, but most of the guys have played in every sort of conditions,” fielding coach Justin Ontong, who was a superb fielder in his day but never played in a World Cup, said yesterday.
The Proteas travelled to Cardiff on Wednesday, where they are going to take on Sri Lanka on Friday in their first warm-up match.
“They are then shifting to Bristol to play the West Indies on Sunday before going to London for the tournament-opener against England at The Oval next Thursday.
“We are all very excited to be here and we can’t wait for the tournament to start, it’s going to be a big game against England.
“We’re topping up on our skills to make sure the players are all ready to go and it will be all about how we play the big moments.
“We are well-prepared for every opposition, but the guys are just raring to go for that first game,” Ontong added.