Expect the unexpected
The World T20 is always a tournament full of surprises. That is the nature of the shortest version of the game. Picking a winner at this early stage is impossible. There are a number of dynamic and excellent Twenty20 combinations around, and the tournament is wide open. This event is about attaining consistent results through the qualifying phase and then peaking during the knock-out stage.
The Proteas are one of the fancied teams. They have only progressed to the semifinal of this competition once and that was in 2009 in England. During that tournament the Proteas looked the team to beat. They won all their qualifying games only to come unstuck against a highly motivated Pakistan team at Trent Bridge during the semifinal.
The other two World T20 tournaments have been disappointing as far as South Africa is concerned. They were well under par in South Africa for the inaugural event in 2007, then again in the West Indies during the most recent championship.
The team going to Sri Lanka to contest this tournament is a strong combination under a new leader in AB de Villiers. There is no doubt that the Proteas are strong enough to win the event. It will boil down to assessing conditions as soon as possible and selecting an appropriate combination that can execute the required skills successfully under pressure.
The biggest challenge as always will be the knock-out phase. This is where the leadership group in the team, along with new coach Gary Kirsten, will face their toughest test. Staying calm under pressure and winning key moments will determine South Africa’s fate during that stage of the tournament.
There should be no issue with the Proteas getting into the final eight in the tournament. They are grouped with Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the initial part of the event. Two teams out of the group go through to the next stage. It is difficult to imagine Zimbabwe upsetting either South Africa or Sri Lanka during the group stage.
The second phase of the tournament will get really interesting. There are some dangerous combinations that will progress to the second stage. Pakistan and the West Indies are aggressive teams well equipped for the shortest version of the game. So are Sri Lanka and India. One can never write off the Aussies irrespective of where they are ranked. Then there is England – the defending champions – who will have a tough time winning the coveted trophy again.
I think this is going to be an exciting event with keenly contested matches. Conditions in Sri Lanka will contribute to making the unexpected happen. Due to weather conditions there will be some shortened games as well. It won’t surprise me if we see the super over coming into play during a key game.
Can the Proteas win this one? Of course they can.