Adam Wakefield

SA has the winning World T20 lottery ticket

The World T20 in Sri Lanka begins soon, and with it the continuation of South Africa’s odyssey to vanquish ghosts of tournaments past. When the World T20 was first held in South Africa in 2007, there was as much scepticism as there was anticipation among the purists whether the new T20 format (at that time anyway) could hack it as an international tournament.

The results spoke for themselves (as did the TV revenue). The rest is history.

Now that the competition has taken its place alongside the ODI World Cup as an event accompanied with prestige for the winning nation, the question now is who will win in Sri Lanka? India are the current bookies’ favourites, with the hosts and the Proteas not far behind.

While the T20 series in England has been short, it showed the importance of having a true cricket heavyweight like Jacques Kallis at the top of the order, to borrow a term from American politics, as a means of balancing the ticket. With power hitters such as Richard Levi and Faf du Plessis vying for the other opening birth, Kallis’s class, experience, and bowling makes the Proteas a far stronger unit.

While South Africa’s campaign at the last ODI World Cup ended unhappily, the pioneering spirit of entrusting our spinners with more responsibility has led to a stable being available for Sri Lanka. Robin Peterson, Johan Botha, Du Plessis, and JP Duminy as an extra option means AB de Villiers has some decisions to make who should bowl when on the rotating-cork front.

Add that to Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Wayne Parnell and Kallis from the seam front, the Proteas will have as balanced an attack as any other side in the tournament. The form of Hashim Amla has been outstanding (an understatement) thus far this season, while De Villiers, Du Plessis, Duminy and Albie Morkel is a balanced mix of grunt and guile in the middle order. Morkel’s bowling will also prove valuable. Farhaan Behardien, while an unknown quantity at international level, has shown enough nous in domestic cricket meriting his selection.

The biggest threats to the Proteas will come from the sub-continent, being India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Their familiarity with the conditions, spin options and pedigree should make them the toughest customers.

Australia are extremely reliant on David Warner and Shane Watson, England seem to have their jitters in the middle order (especially with the poor form of Ravi Bopara), the West Indies with Sunil Narine have one of the potential stars of the tournament but will rely heavily on Chris Gayle, and New Zealand don’t appear to have the depth to sustain a run at the title.

From the associates, expect Ireland and Afghanistan (who would’ve though five years ago?) to push the more established sides. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, while the format is more of an equaliser, will struggle to make it out of their groups.

The Proteas have all the tools on paper to win the World T20, but as cricket observers know, T20 is the ultimate lottery with it only taking one innings or spell to change the complexion of a game. While that may be true, the Proteas have given themselves the best possible opportunity yet of winning an international tournament.

Here we go again? We shall see.