South Africa And Nerves of Steel
SA in a valiant hunt for another Lance Klusener
Lance Klusener looked down, tapped the crease, adjusted his helmet, bit his teeth and brought out a wry smile and then as Damien Fleming strolled in and bowled a pinpoint accurate widish yorker, thumped him through cover all along the carpet ever so nonchalantly. Next ball, Fleming delivered a half-volley outside off stump and Klusener bludgeoned past mid-off for another boundary.
This is the 1999 World Cup semi-final which South Africa infamously tied courtesy a mix-up between Klusener and Allan Donald. The result meant South Africa wouldn't qualify to the World Cup finals but make no mistake, Lance Klusener was a hero. His nerves of steel would go down into the history books of cricket and he was South Africa's shining knight in armour that World Cup.
South Africa are in preparation for a World Cup twenty years since, another tournament in England, and they are in a valiant hunt for another Lance Klusener. The blistering South African all-rounder formed a part of a strong lower order for the Proteas, something they no longer boast of in limited-overs cricket.
As they prepare for another World Cup, the lack of strong finishers down the order would bother the Proteas to no end. They just conceded a home ODI series 5-1 to India, something uncharacteristic for South Africa who are considered brutal at least in bilateral series’. Here we take a look at a few contenders who could slot in as finishers in the limited-overs line-up heading to the World Cup.
Killer Miller hit headlines with his famous comment, “If it's in the ‘V’ hit it to the tree, if it's in the arc, hit it out of the park” but hasn't quite been able to do it consistently enough for the national team. A spectacular hitter and a wonderful athlete, Miller’s talents and abilities are unquestionably good but he will need to convert them into consistent runs to help the Proteas.
At the moment, there are odd innings’ like the one against Australia last year in an ODI or the one against India at Johannesburg two weeks back, but otherwise the returns have been poor. South Africa sorely need the real Miller to step up for his role in the World Cup would be more than that of a mere finisher.
Shot into limelight after his AB de Villiers-style antics against India in the pink ODI and in the 2nd T20I at Centurion, Heinrich Klaasen is the toast of the nation. His ice cool temparement and ability to stroke the ball cleanly stands out in his short career thus far. The manner in which he took the attack to the Indian spinners was laudable and it gave the Proteas a much needed boost in the absence of established stars.
Klaasen’s biggest test would be to score runs on a consistent basis and also making the odd big score. As of now, his two impact knocks have come in shorter games (the knock in the pink ODI came after rain curtailed the match) and South Africa will hope that he has the maturity and temperament to construct a bigger innings.
The unheralded member in the South African ODI side, Morris is known as a match-winner with the bat and rightly so. A clean striker of the ball and a spectacular hitter, Morris showcased his true potential in an ODI series against England in 2016 when he single-handedly won games for the Proteas.
He, however, needs to show that he is more than a mere clubber of the cricket ball, something which hasn't happened in this series agaist India where he was time and again found out against spin. Morris is also in the side as a bowler primarily and needs to ensure he provides value in that department as well.
Andile Phehlukwayo’s amazing grit and temparement came to the fore in his debut series against Australia last year but the Proteas all-rounder needs to work on his bowling to remain in the starting XI.
While his batting has stood out in pressure situations, Phehlukwayo has been clobbered around like a club bowler and will need to work on his bowling. As a batsman, he has time and again performed above expected levels like the time he tonked a five ball 23 against India in the ODIs.
While Pretorius is not in the current ODI setup, he is a calm-headed batsman and a wonderfully consistent bowler. His fiery 27 ball half-century against New Zealand at Christchurch stands out as an example for what he can do with the bat for the Proteas.
Pretorius’ first aim, though, will be to find himself in the fifteen member ODI squad. With transformation guidelines to meet and several all-rounders in the setup, that may not be easy but he is one underrated cricketer the depleted Proteas could take a glance at.