Faf du Plessis (left) will depend a lot on strong performances from his trump cards © Getty Images
By Nishad Pai Vaidya
South Africa have been a force in world cricket across formats; yet it is that crowning glory that evades them since 1998. Now, 14 years later, Faf du Plessis leads his team in another semi-final this — time in the ongoing ICC World T20 2014 — with the famous term being thrown around in the backdrop. As South Africa take on India in the second semi-final of the T20 World Cup in Dhaka, will this new captain inspire the Proteas to shed that infamous tag? By his own admission, and quite frankly, this isn’t the first time South Africa have felt they are close to glory. But du Plessis has stressed upon his troops to play with a “fresh mindset”.
So, what does this fresh mindset entail? Of course, it involves playing fearless cricket and expressing themselves in the middle. It has been often said that the game is played in the mind and there are some chains that have always held the South Africans back in those big games. We may look back at 1992 and 1999 as the genesis of that thought. But then one may also see the tide changing a touch over the course of the last one year.
Many people forget the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in England. This time, the rain favoured South Africa as it pelted down at the appropriate juncture. That is another matter that they collapsed in the semi-final. However, look at their performance in the World T20 so far. They bounced back very well after the game against Sri Lanka with a thrilling victory over New Zealand. Netherlands put them under pressure, but they managed to win that. And then they finished off the Super 10s with a victory over England.
Thus, there is some confidence blending into the team. Although a few members of this team were in the side that “choked” in the 2011 World Cup quarter-final at the same ground, they do not carry the whole historical baggage. There are a few members of the side who are young and they would be the key to this fresh mindset.
Du Plessis, for once, was a part of that famous choke. In fact, he was in the centre when South Africa collapsed and was fighting a lone battle against the Black Caps. He was also involved in an ugly altercation with some of them. Now, like du Plessis, most of the South African players hone their skills in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and other tournaments. That will surely help them blend in that new found confidence and belief of winning tournaments.
A lot would depend on how du Plessis handles his trumpcards. Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir are certainly two of them. Plus, there is a chance of Aaron Phangiso playing as his left-arm spin could create problems. The call would be only taken before the game and if Phangiso is picked, he could play a role in slowing the Indians down. There is a lot to look forward to from this game, and it is du Plessis who will lead the charge for the South Africans. The only thing is: the weather gods have to be kind on Dhaka today.
ICC World T20 2014 schedule: Match time table with venue details
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)