By Bharath Ramaraj
Just a snapshot of the current South African batting line-up would make the opposition shudder with fear. They have a batting line-up that stretches up to No 7 with Jean Paul Duminy taking up the final slot. Rattled analysts behind closed doors would spend hours together to explore those small crevices and fissures in their batsmen’s techniques. However, question marks remain whether South Africa’s batting line-up is as good as it looks on paper, and when up against an opposition who show indomitable spirit glowing from their hearts and projected in their eyes, would they show a chink or two in their armour?
Undoubtedly, the two lynchpins of the present day South African batting line-up are Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. Both batsmen, just with a swish of their magic blades, seem to make the bowlers feel helpless. They also have that uncanny ability to essay double tons and triple tons. The veteran left-handed batsman and captain of the side for yonks now, Graeme Smith was troubled by an ankle injury earlier this year, yet he showcased that despite rustiness, he still has that burgeoning belief by scoring a tenacious century in UAE against Pakistan recently.
With AB de Villiers also doubling up as a wicketkeeper, the strategy of the South African think-tank is to lengthen their batting line-up with Faf du Plessis batting at No 6 and Duminy at 7. In their respective careers, both have shown that they can stand up and be counted in times of crisis. Just last year, du Plessis’s monumental century at Adelaide in Australia took South Africa to safety from the brink of a heavy defeat. During South Africa’s tour of Australia in 2008-09, Duminy at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) with his prestidigitation sent shock waves through the Australian camp, and helped them to script an unbelievable victory.
Ever since though, Duminy has struggled to live up to the high expectations. He has made a few valuable contributions here and there, but hasn’t been consistent enough. Injuries haven’t helped him and it also has to be said that batting so lower down the order is never easy. To some extent, du Plessis too, since shining brightly in Australia which won him a tidal wave of appreciation, has had a few quiet games.
In fact, since the time the writer saw du Plessis play for Lancashire in County Cricket, he has rated him highly. But in the tough grind of international cricket, it is hard to rest on past laurels. Yes, it can be again argued that he bats down the order and plays for a team, where the likes of de Villiers and Amla notch up big scores consistently and he comes into bat when South Africa is already in a position of strength.
The Indian bowling attack on paper is at best average. So, we may not be able gauge whether the South African batting line-up is dependent on a few individuals or the seasoned veteran, Jacques Kallis is coming to the end of what has been a illustrious Test career. Having said that, if the Indian team is able to make a bit of dent in South Africa’s top-order, it may set for the cat among the pigeons in the South African camp.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
South Africa vs India — Live on Ten Cricket
Also on cricketcountry.com