Proteas’ to-do list as they tilt at World Cup wind­mill

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA [email protected]­press.co.za

The Proteas, prob­a­bly the world’s un­luck­i­est team when it comes to World Cups, are gath­er­ing them­selves for yet an­other tilt at the wind­mill as they pre­pare for this year’s edi­tion of the tour­na­ment.

Here are five things they need to ad­dress be­fore they head off to Eng­land:

Make num­ber seven lucky again

As a for­mer hard-hit­ting all­rounder, Proteas coach Ot­tis Gib­son has al­most as big an affin­ity for the bits-and-pieces folks of cricket as he does for fast bowlers.

That’s why he was pretty keen to load the World Cup squad with all­rounders, a bit like his old em­ploy­ers Eng­land. But then an age-old curse – since Jac­ques Kal­lis’ re­tire­ment, any­way – got in the way as re­li­able all-rounders, es­pe­cially those fit­ting the de­scrip­tion of a num­ber seven, are sud­denly thin on the ground.

It’s six months to the World Cup and there’s no ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion, with the au­di­tion set to rum­ble on through the rest of the South African sum­mer. Chris Mor­ris, the favourite go­ing into the sea­son, barely got a look in on the white ball tour to Aus­tralia and hasn’t been in­cluded in the squad to play Pak­istan, while Dwaine Pre­to­rius seems to be get­ting a foothold in a con­ver­sa­tion he seem­ingly wasn’t in three months ago. Which brings us back to Mor­ris and Pre­to­rius, as well as Andile Phehluk­wayo and Wi­aan Mul­der, as the men au­di­tion­ing for the role.

Get Lungi Ngidi healthy

The most en­cour­ag­ing sight at the Proteas’ train­ing ses­sions this week was Ngidi, al­beit with his knee still heav­ily strapped, work­ing on his bowl­ing ac­tion from a stand­ing start with Gib­son at Wan­der­ers. In a lit­tle over a year, Ngidi has made him­self an in­dis­pens­able mem­ber of the Proteas’ bowl­ing at­tack, es­pe­cially the one-day in­ter­na­tional (ODI) team.

Be­fore in­jur­ing his knee in the T20 on tour in Aus­tralia, a trim and on­form Ngidi was a man al­most at one with his im­mense po­ten­tial. Bowl­ing fast and ac­cu­rately, he took wick­ets up front, kept it tidy in the mid­dle overs and hit his tar­gets at the death. Never mind Kag­iso Rabada and Dale Steyn, Ngidi is as im­por­tant as any­one when it comes to the Proteas win­ning the World Cup.

A start­ing place for Klaasen

This may sound a bit odd, es­pe­cially as Hein­rich Klaasen’s role seems to be that of des­ig­nated re­serve wick­et­keeper, but each time Klaasen has been on the park for the Proteas, there have been glimpses that sug­gest not only a burn­ing de­sire to play a big­ger role with the bat and as an out­fielder, but also that he could do some dam­age with a lit­tle more surety in the team.

From a dis­tance, Klaasen, a de­struc­tive hit­ter who has no dis­cernible is­sues play­ing wrist spin, looks like he puts too much pres­sure on him­self to do well. A lit­tle faith in him may im­bue him with the re­lax­ation that might re­lease him.

More game time for Amla

So much has been said about Hashim Amla’s form that the poor blighter’s ears must be ring­ing. But such are his achieve­ments in the ODI game that when the open­ing bats­man sneezes, the rest of the Proteas bat­ting line-up catches a cold. Fol­low­ing a heav­ily pub­li­cised patchy run of form last year, Amla has shown en­cour­ag­ing signs of form in the test se­ries against Pak­istan.

If he is to lead the bat­ting at the World Cup, he needs to bat as of­ten as he can over the next few months to re­gain the touch that saw him break sev­eral “fastest to” ODI records after be­ing type­cast as a red ball crick­eter.

In­vest in luck

I’m not sure how any­one would go about this, but the coun­try’s record of hav­ing won just one knock­out game in seven World Cups – back in 2015 – de­mands that the Proteas al­most ac­tively try to en­gen­der good karma go­ing into this year’s tour­na­ment. It doesn’t mat­ter if they be­lieve in throw­ing their wishes into the lap of the uni­verse so it can help them along, trav­el­ling with their own witch doc­tor or rub­bing the Bud­dha’s belly – some­thing has to be done be­cause their fail­ure to win a World Cup has gone from be­ing mere bad luck to some kind of sick curse.

PHOTO: THARAKA BASNAYAKA / NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES

A healthy Lungi Ngidi will help the Proteas win the World Cup

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