What Do The Proteas Need to Bring Home the 2023 Cricket World Cup?

With a few horrific exceptions, The Proteas have really set the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India alight. Before the tournament, head coach Rob Walter and captain Temba Bavuma likely regarded qualification for the semi-finals to be the absolute minimum achievement for the squad. Minimum achievement reached. Now the hard work begins.

Thursday sees South Africa taking on a resurgent Australian team. Fresh from seven straight group victories, the Aussies are on a high. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about The Proteas at the moment after a dire performance against the hosts and favourites, India in their last match but one. Many pundits were not too impressed by South Africa’s winning run chase against Afghanistan either.

With this important semi-final on the near horizon, what does South Africa need to get right to make it through to the World Cup Final? And what does the team need to do to win the World Cup, should they get there?

Win the Toss 

Throughout the group stage, we’ve seen how good South Africa has been at setting targets. The Proteas have comfortably won the five group matches where they batted first, while the results when chasing have been less than satisfactory.

When chasing, South Africa capitulated against the Netherlands in Dharamshala. Then The Proteas sneaked home by a single wicket against Pakistan in Chennai, in the match of the tournament so far. South Africa’s low point in the tournament came the next time the team batted second. The penultimate group match against India in Kolkata resulted in a 243-run defeat, after scoring only 83 runs in total. 

With The Proteas likely to face the same opposition if they beat the Australians in the semi-final, it’s absolutely crucial that all memories of the last encounter get eliminated. The best way of doing this is by batting first and setting a solid total for India to chase. Likewise, batting first in the semi-final will likely give South Africa a mental edge after what happened against Australia last time.  

To avert the chances of similar below-par performances when chasing, the coin toss is an important factor in South Africa’s success. On current form, The Proteas must bat first, no matter the pitch conditions. Winning the toss and batting means the team will carry forward the confidence and momentum gained from five comprehensive victories in the tournament so far.

Bavuma to Lead with the Bat

The South African skipper has had a less-than-stellar 2023 World Cup with the bat so far. In seven innings Temba Bavuma has scored only 145 runs at an average of slightly over 21. His top score is 35, which needs to change going into the semi-final.

With all of South Africa’s other top and middle order boasting a score of over 50 during the group stage, Bavuma needs to find form going into Thursday’s semi-final. In the two matches he missed through illness the captain’s replacement Reeza Hendricks scored 97 runs, with a sublime 85 included. 

Although Bavuma’s captaincy skills should not be discounted, he is first and foremost an opening batsman and, as such, needs to provide stability at the top of the order. With Bavuma firing, it would relieve some of the pressure on Quinton de Kock and Rusty van der Dussen’s shoulders. 

While both have performed admirably in general, it is imperative that the skipper starts to contribute more with the bat, especially if South Africa has to chase a total. Alternatively, if he still feels out of form, Bavuma, and Walter, should consider other alternatives that may benefit the team. A World Cup Final appearance is at stake.

Shed the “Chokers” Label

Yes, it had to come up. South Africa’s unwanted reputation of choking at some stage of World Cup tournaments has credence. It is up to the current squad to put this behind them and live up to their other reputation as one of the World’s finest cricket teams.

Despite The Proteas’ fine form and some of the best individual performances at the 2023 World Cup, the squad has drifted in the betting and is now only third favoured to win the tournament. India, as expected, is the bookmakers’ favourite at odds of 10/11. Australia (7/2) has usurped South Africa (4/1) as second-favourites thanks to their current form, while New Zealand is the 7/1 outsider with sportsbooks.

It’s up to South Africa’s players to defy these odds by avoiding the choker’s tag in this year’s World Cup. We all know the players have the cricketing ability – their performances show this – but each one needs to show they have the ability to perform under pressure as well. Sports bettors and other supporters recognise that South Africa has already shown this mental fortitude in the ODI series against Australia before the World Cup.

Sports betting in South Africa tends to be dominated by horse racing, cricket, and soccer (source: https://sportslens.com/za/betting-apps/) so it’s time The Proteas shed the chokers label once and for all. In so doing, they have a chance to join the ranks of Bafana Bafana (AFCON 1996), and several SA champion racehorses by clinching a major title. 

Let’s not forget that these cricketers can join The Springboks in giving South Africa dual World Champion status!

In Closing

South Africa’s World Cup cricketers have the international experience and expertise to beat any other nation on their day. They require only two such days to become World Champions. The Proteas only need a little added luck and some further disciplined performances over the next two matches. 

With the team’s other aforementioned qualities on display, South Africa can certainly beat the current odds and bring the trophy home.

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