Don’t Hide Your Match Winners

19/03/2014

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South Africa have been accused, and with some reason, of being too one dimensional in the past. They have a plan, and they stick to it, and generally execute it well. It’s why they have risen to the top of Test cricket, and been ranked first in both ODI and T20 cricket in the recent past. It also may be why they’ve never won a World Cup.

Despite going into tournaments as the form team and favourites they’ve always fallen short, losing a key moment that sees the dreaded “c” word thrown around. At the last T20 World Cup they decided to change things a bit and went in the complete opposite direction – too much flexibility. They had a fluid, floating batting order, with the opposition, and it seems the players themselves, never knowing who was coming in next. Balance has always been a buzz word in teams, and this is what the Proteas need, balance in their approach, balance between structure and flexibility.

Although the recent T20 series against Australia was spoiled by the weather, it did give an alarming indication of what the Proteas plans may be in the World Cup – a regression to the past inflexibility. They seemed to have had everyone down from 1-11 and nothing was going to change that. In the opening game, with it being only 7 overs each side, they sent their usual openers in with Faf Du Plessis in at 3. All indications were that JP Duminy would be in next if needed. No AB De Villiers, David Miller or Albie Morkel in a 7 over shoot out? The next game saw AB in at 5, followed by Miller and then Morkel. The batting order is going to lose South Africa this World Cup.

AB de Villiers is not only South Africa’s best batsman, he’s the best in the world. So why is he coming in at 5 in a 20 over game? Because he does it for his IPL team and has been a destructive finisher with a quick 30 and the occasional 50. This is a World Cup, and they have a chance of finally winning one! The batting order should be built around AB, with him coming in at 3 to face as many balls as possible, and everyone batting around him. If AB bats for over 30 balls you generally end up with a good score. At 5 he either has to come in and have a slog after a good platform has been laid, or perform a rescue act if it’s been a bad start. He’s wasted at 5, and needs to bat at 3. It’s that simple.

The idea behind the Proteas batting lineup is that the foundation is laid by the openers, Faf and JP, and AB, Miller and Albie are the finishers. Sound logic, but this is T20 cricket! Get AB in their sooner, and you still have JP, Miller and Albie to finish! That being said their is a case for Miller to be moved up the order too. He’s a match winner, and can’t win matches facing 8 balls, batting at 6. He bats at 4 for his franchise the Dolphins and has been amazingly effective there. If wickets are lost early, hold him back, send JP and Faf in ahead to work the power play, but then get him in after the 6th over. He’s a destructive batsman, but not from ball one, give him an over or two to play himself in, and then sit back and watch the fireworks.

AB and Miller are South Africa’s match winners. Don’t hide them at 5 and 6, get them in earlier, let them control the game, and then take it away from their opponents. The weapons are there, use them correctly and the Proteas could just win a World Cup at last.