Currently the No. 1 ODI ranked team and the host of the tournament, what a strong contender of Champions, but wait does home ground add pressure? did any home team won any big tournament? aren’t they tagged choker? Phewwww thats interesting. It is South Africa dude.
South Africa squad: Graeme Smith (capt), Johan Botha, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Makhaya Ntini, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Roelof van der Merwe
Well, could you expect a better squad than this? Big names, old guns, emerging players, young blood, hitters, defenders, match winners everything is there inside. A beautiful mix of cricket players and nicely balanced as a cricketing team specially as a ODI team with some backup options. Just try to make combination of best 11 out of them and you will find out wow it’s not that easy. They got choices for spinners Botha and van der Merwe plus the new addition left arm spinner Robin Peterson,what is left then? In fast bowling attack there is Styen, Nitini and Parnell with some support from all-rounders specially the ever green Kallis. Tsotsobe is an exciting new medium pacer who already have a promising debut against Australia. Then they have some explosive ODI batters like Gibbs, AB de Villiers, Albie Morkel with very strong support of solid batsmen Smith, Amla, Kallis and finisher like Boucher(?), wohoooo.
As obvious their strength lies in there complete and amazingly balanced team. South Africa has lot of choices to select final playing 11 and in each case they have the luxury of taking opposition, pitch and conditions in consideration and select the best that fits in their plans. Batting order is pretty deep with useful batsmen at top middle and lower middle order. Bowling attack probably first time in recent history of South African cricket is complete with full of variety. Fast and stunning, accurate medium pace, left arm swing, leg spin, off spin, left arm spin all covered. In most of the batting and bowling categories they have cricketers of proven quality of very high standards. Yes some are new and young too but that is sometime as good as experience and also good for the future of team. Team’s current position and situation is best time to build up future players of international standards.
From a team like this you can expect best of best performances. South Africa will be a worthy champions, (no choking this time which is likely to be the case). oh and I forgot home advantage, is there any seriously?
Wondering what could be possible weaknesses of this team? First up an interesting one, choking tag, yeah it is still hot. Some people still thinks it is not removed yet and some are positive about it. In recent T20 Cup they lost semi final against Pakistan and were rewarded with choking tag once again. Personally I am mixed up a little bit here, they performed very well in all matches and in semi too but just not the best in semi. On the other hand Pakistan played really well, specially there bowling was very good add Shahid Afridi to it and there wasn’t much South Africa could do.
Beside that they will have some pressure of being playing at home, as there record suggests they haven’t had the best of times in mega events at home. May be this time they will be determined to change it, wait till the action begins.
Finding the best combination out of this squad could also be a little headache for captain with lot of good choices, isn’t it a good thing? Well sometimes it leads to some experiments which could last 2 or 3 matches which you can’t afford in such short tournament provided that experiment may lead to disaster. Although they are in relatively easy group but its ODI cricket and you never know.
South Africa’s first challenge will be against Sri Lanka in opening match of Champions Trophy 2009, which is the strongest team of their group after them. Result of that match may have no effect on semi final qualifier if both of them win there next both matches which are against relatively weak/not well performing teams England and New Zealand.
South Africa is a favorite for the Trophy for sure. Qualification for semis is almost sure on paper. After that you will witness some awesome contest in next two matches (semi and final) to become champion.
So my percentage will be like 80% : 20% win:loss ratio.
Have a great run Proteas!