The strategy South Africa used to rise from the depths of 2019 to victory in the 2023 World Cup
Their seasoned performance analyst, Prasanna Agoram, picks through the ruins of previous setbacks to determine the causes of India’s victory in the world cup.
When South Africa was knocked out of the 2019 World Cup, they were at their lowest point and began to think about how to turn things around for the 2023 World Cup in India.
Their team analyst, Prasanna Agoram, later recalled, “the only thing we spoke about post-2019 World Cup was what do we do for 2023, where the conditions will be even more challenging because it will be held in India.”
A few days after returning home from England in 2019 with just three wins out of nine games, South Africa focused on this plan in preparation for the 2023 World Cup.
“We committed to playing in the World Cup, so that was the first and most important thing we accomplished. Regardless matter how well-known a person is, if we had any concerns about their availability, we were prepared to move on. It didn’t matter about your status or reputation since you had to have a clear vision. The only way to prepare players for this World Cup, according to Prasanna, was to do it even though we knew it would be challenging to see results after we started.
South Africa hasn’t entered a World Cup where the bulk of their team has never played in the competition since the 1992 edition, their first one following readmission.
For all of the players save Quinton de Kock, David Miller (who has won three World Cups), Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Aiden Markram, and Rassie van der Dussen—including their captain Temba Bavuma—this is their first World Cup.
It was not an easy journey to India. After losing a few important players to England and New Zealand, Kolpak’s demise due to Brexit might actually be a godsend. Cricket South Africa would go above and beyond to offer contrived national contracts, which allowed several players to commit to the Proteas, even as T20 franchises loomed over them.
“Having a potent top four with two excellent spinners and bowlers who can take wickets in the opening powerplay is essential for success in India.” They’ve covered every angle here. Their spinners would struggle if their pacers fail to take wickets during the opening powerplay. And that, in my opinion, is their only vulnerability, adds Prasanna.
The journey to India was not without its setbacks. Their immediate qualification for the globe Cup would have been in risk if they had to establish their own T20 league to stay up with the rest of the globe, but a decisive series victory against England gave them a breather before things took a turn for the worst once more. With only ten months remaining before the World Cup, South Africa hired Rob Walter as their new head coach and shifted their attention to the 2027 tournament, which they are expected to host, following Mark Boucher’s resignation.
They therefore had very low hopes when the World Cup started in India. The fact that the rugby World Cup was underway removed them from the spotlight. But now that the people who were initially hand-selected for the 2023 project are gelling, South Africa is starting to dream once more. Without any anticipation, South Africa has looked liberated on the field, with players like Heinrich Klaasen, Markram, De Kock, and Van Der Dussen all batting with a freedom that you often only saw in AB de Villiers. Additionally, their pacers have found more spring in their bowling with large totals on the board.
With the exception of the 2003 and 2019 editions, South Africa has dominated the group stages ever since their readmission. Though they are the favorites, the expectations have repeatedly got in the way of them throughout the knockout stages, which has shown to be their biggest weakness. And while South Africa, who were viewed as extreme underdogs to get past the group stages, are literally lighting the World Cup on fire with their bat and ball, there is one unanswered question that is on everyone’s mind. Can this team, lacking many prominent names in the lineup, surprise both the world and themselves?
Prasanna highlights a crucial aspect of this team that offers him hope. Few of these guys have experienced the heartbreak of competing in the knockout stages and coming up short. They don’t know what crushes you when you fall short in the semifinals. Smith had witnessed knockouts in 2003, 2007 and 2011, and the memory of those events were still raw in his mind.
The 2015 squad did the same when they faced New Zealand in the semifinals, losing to them in 2011. I have experienced the negative energy of the dressing room, where you suddenly start to focus about something else instead of the skill set that will make you look bad. The strain was growing on their faces, as you could see. They were preventing themselves from expressing themselves because they wanted to disprove everyone. Prasanna adds, “But this team is playing freely without any such baggage.”
The venues are another item that is offering Prasanna great hope. They play New Zealand in Pune, India in Kolkata, and Afghanistan in Ahmedabad after playing Pakistan in Chennai on Friday.
With the exception of Kolkata and India, South Africa will be optimistic about the remaining matches because of the favorable circumstances. To avoid facing India at Wankhede, they should somehow finish first, second, or third in the league, he continues. After that, it will boil down to the perennial issue of South Africa and the eliminations. Can that code be cracked by a team without baggage?