Columnists 15.6.2018 11:51 am

Wanna win next year’s World Cup? Pick bowlers…

South Africa's Vernon Philander bowls during the Cricket World Cup semi-final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland on March 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE / AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville

South Africa's Vernon Philander bowls during the Cricket World Cup semi-final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland on March 24, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARTY MELVILLE / AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville

The Proteas would do well to stop fussing over who should replace AB de Villiers and rather concentrating on keeping Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander fit for next year’s showpiece.

When MS Dhoni smashed the six that sealed India’s momentous 2011 World Cup victory on home soil, most observers were heralding the start of the age where batting was going to dominate ball overwhelmingly.

After all, the Indians had won that title playing with seven frontline batsmen.

It seemed as if you could concede big totals as long as you had a power-packed batting order that could score more.

But in the subsequent years, an interesting trend developed in 50-over cricket.

Yes, the format is played at a higher, more aggressive pace as T20 continues to exert a lot of influence.

However, if you examine some basic stats from 2013 and 2017’s ICC Champions Trophy as well as 2015’s World Cup, you’d realise this: the best teams in those tournaments had the best bowling attacks.

2013’s shootout saw the finalists, India and England, snap up 40 and 35 wickets respectively – the most in the tournament.

Two years later, Australia and New Zealand met in the World Cup’s showpiece game having taking 73 and 75 wickets.

You guessed it, they were the most potent attacks in the tournament.

And last year, Pakistan gained a surprising but richly deserved major ODI title because they took 37 wickets – 10 more than semifinalist England and 11 more than runners-up India.

Obviously, cricket – especially in a major tournament – is far more intricate and one bad or inspired performance can upset even the most carefully crafted game-plan.

It’s nonetheless still refreshing to know that the ball still plays a meaningful role in ODI cricket.

That’s why it’s pleasing to hear that Dale Steyn, even at a reasonably advanced age of 34, still wants to fight for a World Cup spot next year.

Frankly, he’s still one of the best bowlers in the country and would surely form an enviously potent attack with young guns Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.

In fact, South Africa shouldn’t even bother looking too far a wide for “new” all-rounders to groom as national coach Ottis Gibson suggested previously.

He’s been hired to win the country an elusive World Cup.

Future development really should be put on the backburner temporarily.

So, just ensure Steyn and Vernon Philander – who can easily bat No 7 in ODIs – are fit for next year’s showpiece and reap the rewards from an attack that reads: Steyn, Philander, Rabada, Ngidi and Tahir.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

 

 

 

 

 

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