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SA World Cup bowl ‘half full’, says Bacher

  • LukeSport8Mar1
In the cycle of sporting seasons, no year holds more enchantment than a World Cup year. First, the debate. Most of this is public, through the pages of the newspaper, on television, the radio, and across social media.
by LIKE ALFRED | Mar 07, 2019

But some of it is private, therefore invisible, taking place in the nooks and crannies of everyday life: at the gym, at Shabbos dinners, during walks in the park.

It curls around the edge of social get-togethers like braai smoke.

After debate – and the hearty sift of selection – comes the team announcement, the farewells, the rising sap of expectation. Then there’s the tournament itself, the amped-up hope of the opening game, the progress of one’s team through the early phases. After that, the knockout stage, the nail-gnawing – and the brute realities of either heartbreak or elation.

Given South Africa’s World Cup history, the emotional palette for locals at such events is somehow more complicated. They have become so used to Cricket World Cup disappointment, that they tip-toe around the event, hoping for better, expecting the worst.

Unless you are lucky enough to be there, it’s almost as if we will all watch the tournament (the Proteas’ opening game is against England on 30 May) with one eye. Or sneak up on it in the hope that not caring too much is a guarantee of success. South Africans have become so used to devastation, that we erect emotional barricades around World Cups. Best pretend not to care – or not to care too much. It’s somehow safer that way.

Former Proteas opening batsman, Adam Bacher, seems to be like pretty much everyone else in this regard, greeting a question of how the Proteas are likely to do with circumspection. “Am I confident,” he asks rhetorically. “There’s a lot of uncertainty about – I don’t think that’s ideal.”

Later he thaws, finding positives in what admittedly looks like a slightly chaotic pre-World Cup period. He likes the cricket being played by the Highveld Lions Rassie van der Dussen, but emphasises that the batsman needs to bat where he’s most comfortable.

“We can’t experiment too much,” says Bacher. “Rassie needs to bat in the top order, not in the middle order. I think it’s a question of fitting people in but keeping experimentation to a minimum. Balance could be our biggest challenge.”

On the subject of the middle order, Bacher also sees hope in the fact that AB de Villiers won’t be in England. “That will give the team a lot of freedom,” he says.

While there’s no doubt that De Villiers is still one of the finest short-form players in the world, the team will experience his absence as a liberation. He brings baggage, says Bacher, having experienced his fair share of World Cup heartbreak, and it’s therefore a good thing that AB won’t be making the trip.

When asked if the lack of baggage carried by the younger guard – such as Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi – counts for anything, he greets the question with initial enthusiasm before drawing back. “It does help – but it’s not the main point,” he says. “I think Quinton will be carrying a great deal with the batting. He’s our most attacking batsmen, so there’s big expectation.”

On the subject of younger players, Bacher likes our younger bowlers, floating the intriguing possibility that this could be a tournament won by bowlers rather than batsmen. “Look, most sides don’t have the firepower that we have,” he says. “If we bowl like we bowled in Australia in 2018, we will spring a few surprises. We could be in with a shout.”

Before South Africa play their first World Cup match against England at the Oval, however, some conundrums need solving.

Hashim Amla has been awarded a new national contract, but has been dropped for the first three ODIs against Sri Lanka. For all his loyalty and brilliance, many feel that he’s past his best. He’s been pushed hard by younger, hungrier players, with the form player in domestic cricket being Aiden Markram, who has scored close to 300 limited-over runs in his past two domestic outings for the Titans.

Some feel that Markram was jettisoned far too casually from the Proteas ODI set-up last year and, as the happening player in the local game, he deserves another chance.

Then there’s JP Duminy, who returned from a rotator cuff injury last week. As luck would have it, he made a duck for the Cobras, but he’s too good a player not to start scoring runs.

Such news might displease Bacher because it would cause further disruption. Then again, there’s no causal link between smooth preparation and success. Flying by the seat of our pants might yet land us the elusive cup.

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