Keshav Maharaj, who suffered an Achilles’ rupture in March, has staged an impressive recovery and secured his place in South Africa’s 15-man squad for the upcoming ODI World Cup, set to commence next month.
Keshav Maharaj sustained his injury during a Test match against West Indies in March and initial expectations were that he would be sidelined for the remainder of the year. However, he made a triumphant return to action over the weekend, featuring in South Africa’s final T20I against Australia. His fitness has been officially confirmed for the World Cup. In India, he will be one of the two frontline spinners, alongside Tabraiz Shamsi, while Aiden Markram’s offspin may also be utilized.
Fast Bowling Dominance and Tough Choices
South Africa’s squad reflects their strategy of bolstering the team with pace bowlers, featuring six quicks. Leading the pace attack is Kagiso Rabada, supported by Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen, Sisanda Magala (who is recovering from a knee niggle), and Gerald Coetzee. Notably, the selection favored Coetzee over Wayne Parnell, even though Coetzee had only two ODI caps to his name.
Rob Walter, South Africa’s white-ball coach, explained, “We really want to have four high-quality fast bowlers on the park at most times. That’s a strategy South African cricket has done well with. Parny was definitely one of the tough decisions to make. He would have formed part of that six-strong fast-bowling group, but we went for Gerald as someone who has got a little bit of extra pace. It was a tough call; tough for him [Parnell] to miss out. And I don’t believe you need an extra batter. We’ve got a backup batter in the group. I back all of them. They are very versatile.”
A Strong Batting Line-Up
The batting department boasts captain Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (who will retire from ODIs after the tournament), Rassie van der Dussen, and players with ample IPL experience in Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, and David Miller. Reeza Hendricks is the reserve, in excellent form with seven fifties from his last ten T20I innings, although younger talents like Tristan Stubbs and Dewald Brevis missed out.
Patience for Emerging Talent
Walter emphasized the importance of patience for players with evident potential who have not yet fully shone on the international stage. He stated, “Selection doesn’t sometimes happen as quickly as people want. We have one backup batter in our group, and all our batters have been playing for South Africa. For them to be superseded will just be unfair. That’s the important thing to understand about the ODI side; they have been playing very good cricket for a while, so that’s why the tried-and-tested names are out there.”
Ngidi’s Form and Adaptation
While Lungi Ngidi faced a wicketless run in the T20Is against Australia and struggled for consistency, Walter expressed confidence in his 50-over form rebounding. He noted, “I am not concerned at all. I’ve seen the work Lungi has put in over the entire winter period. T20 can be brutal, and I do feel there is a slightly different dynamic when it comes to 50-over cricket. I know he will find his feet soon enough.”
Experience from India and Varied Pitch Conditions
Ngidi honed his skills in India, specifically with the Chennai Super Kings, focusing on slower ball variations to complement his pace. This experience and expertise are assets that South Africa hopes will serve them well in the subcontinent. Walter anticipates varied pitch conditions, except when they play against India, where they expect spin to dominate. He stated, “Having been to India, you realize there is no one condition you are going to face. There’s a real spectrum. I have no doubt there will be some directive around creating the best cricket wickets that they can to make sure it’s a spectacle.”
Upcoming ODIs Against Australia
Before heading to the World Cup, South Africa will face Australia in five ODIs over the next 12 days with the same squad, including Fortuin. Players like Brevis, Parnell, and Stubbs, who were initially part of the squad, have been released from the playing group to prepare for the domestic one-day cup, commencing on September 16.
South Africa World Cup Squad:
- Temba Bavuma (capt)
- Gerald Coetzee
- Quinton de Kock
- Reeza Hendricks
- Marco Jansen
- Heinrich Klaasen
- Sisanda Magala
- Keshav Maharaj
- Aiden Markram
- David Miller
- Lungi Ngidi
- Anrich Nortje
- Kagiso Rabada
- Tabraiz Shamsi
- Rassie van der Dussen