New-found confidence in SA’s ability to ‘get out of jail’ when needed

2014-04-04 00:00

AT the start of the tournament, while the Proteas would have privately set their sights on winning the trophy, to be blunt, few would have offered them more than an outside chance at best.

This would not have been owing to SA’s lack of ability but rather due to their erratic past performances in the game’s shortest format.

Now all of a sudden, the Proteas find themselves two wins away from breaking their World Cup duck.

I believe that even the most die-hard fans will battle to comprehend just how close that feat is.

As the tournament in Bangladesh has unfolded for the Proteas, my sense is that there seems to be a new-found confidence in their ability to “get out of jail” when needed.

In the past, the likes of AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn have regularly come to the fore in this regard.

However, what has proved pleasing is that in recent fixtures the likes of JP Duminy, Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir have really stepped up to the plate and excelled under pressure.

That said, India have cruised through the tournament unbeaten and yet almost under the radar. As the first side to qualify for the knock-outs, they have enjoyed the luxury of sitting back and watching their opponents slug it out. However, they have, of course, also used the valuable time to practice and analyse almost all details at play.

But no matter how much in-depth preparation a team puts in, one-off games are all about the pressure on the day. The fact that today’s showdown is a World Cup semi-final only increases the stakes ten-fold. It effectively means that what has gone before counts for very little.

I believe MS Dhoni’s men are wise enough to know that on their day, the Proteas have the potential to beat any side under any conditions.

However, the Indians will no doubt look to capitalise on their strength in playing spin more effectively than most and will surely make use of their spinners at critical times in the contest.

In contrast, South Africa will lean towards their pacemen — something which underpins their cultural make-up. However, through Tahir, the Proteas have discovered a new-found confidence in the middle-over period and crucially another string to their bow.

The key for the Proteas is to persist with the tactics that have carried them through to the knock-out phase.

My message to the side is simple: Don’t venture too far outside your comfort zone in a crucial decider.

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