Faf du Plessis felt the WT20 event is a very open one though he anointed hosts India as the favourites to lift the crown © Getty Images
Faf du Plessis felt the WT20 event is a very open one though he anointed hosts India as the favourites to lift the crown © Getty Images

Mumbai: Although carrying the unwanted tag of chokers in big ICC events for long, South Africa are confident that if they play to potential they can clinch the World T20 championship and erase that label from the public memory. “We have played some very good cricket in the sub- continent. Although we are a little bit disappointed with the [1-2 T20 series] loss [to Australia] a few hours ago, we are very confident moving into this World Cup in these conditions. We know if we play our best cricket we will be close to taking the trophy,” said the Proteas captain Faf du Plessis on Friday. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs South Africa, ICC World T20 2016 warm-up, Match 13 at Mumbai

Du Plessis felt the WT20 event is a very open one though he anointed hosts India as the favourites to lift the crown. “This is one of the most open ICC events. I think India are favourites for the way they are playing. It’s going to be a real open pool. No longer are there any easy games. In T20 cricket anyone can beat anyone. It’s going to be a real cracker.”  He said playing in Indian conditions was not something unique any more with so many of the South African cricket team members having played in the Indian Premier League. ICC World T20 2016: David Miller calls South Africa’s warm-up tie against India a ‘big game’

“We play a lot of cricket in these conditions and the majority of our team members play in the IPL. These are no longer alien conditions,” maintained the 31-year-old top order batsman who is to play in his third World T20. Asked whether the chokers’ tag attached to the Proteas since their re-admission to the international fold in 1992, du Plessis said it can be banished only when the team wins a major ICC trophy. India vs South Africa, ICC World T20 2016 warm-up match at Mumbai: Preview

“The only way we can get that monkey off the back is if we do win an (ICC) trophy. The only way you get rid of that is to perform well under pressure. That’s something we don’t think or talk about. The important thing is in the build-up to this World Cup, in real pressure moments, this team has stood up and played well. But from the spectators’ point of view and from media point of view there’s once again a lot said about that. [But] We have shown over a period of time that we play better in pressure moments and have done it well especially as a T20 team.”

Du Plessis’s optimism stems from his conviction that this is the most balanced squad the country has assembled so far in ICC events. “We are well balanced squad, probably the most balanced squad we have had and not only in the playing 11. We have real depth in our squad. I think for the first time we have got real balance and every area has been covered,” said the South Africa captain, whose 119 against the West Indies last year is a T20 record for his country.

South Africa are in Group 1 in the Super Ten stage of the competition along with defending champions Sri Lanka, 2010 champions England, 2012 winners West Indies and first round Group B qualifiers. They are to open their campaign against England at the Wankhede Stadium here on March 18. Conceding that the squad had been scarred mentally by the 3-0 defeat handed out by India in the last Test engagement between the two countries, the South Africa captain insisted those are completely forgotten now.

“We did carry those scars soon after the series. We were lacking in confidence against England in the Tests. That’s what happens when you suffer a big defeat. But that’s out of our system. We have played great cricket later against England and against Australia. Anyway half this squad was not even here for the Test series.” On the menace of drugs affecting sports he said, “It’s difficult to say what’s happening in our sport. Cricket is one sport where you don’t get much benefit by getting such things into the system. But we have to keep the game clean.”