Mark Boucher couldn’t do it in his long career as a player. Maybe as a coach?
Boucher will sign off as South Africa coach after the Twenty20 World Cup, giving him one last chance to help end a 30-year jinx for the Proteas at major limited-overs tournaments.
South Africa has never won a World Cup of any sort, 50-over or 20-over, and hopes of a breakthrough victory coming this time in Australia are modest after the Proteas hit setbacks in their buildup.
Captain Temba Bavuma is under pressure for his place, Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius are out with injuries, and big-hitting batter David Miller can’t do it all by himself.
South Africa goes into the tournament off a 2-1 series loss in India and the Proteas are a little way off the best in the world.
They’ve never gone past the semifinals at the World Twenty20 and last made it to the last four in 2014. The Proteas are in Group 2 with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and two other qualifiers.
Boucher has already announced that he’ll step down after the T20 World Cup to take on a new job as coach of Mumba Indians in the IPL.
Boucher’s three years in charge of South Africa have been marked by inconsistent results from his team and a tumultuous relationship with his employers at Cricket South Africa, who were ready to fire him earlier in the year over allegations of racism, only to suddenly drop all charges against him.
Boucher said the allegations were unfounded and caused him “considerable hurt and anguish.” He committed to seeing out his contract but the situation has led to an uncomfortable final few months.
The batting of the skipper has been a burning issue since he returned from an elbow injury just in time for the T20 World Cup.
Bavuma’s T20 ability has often been under the microscope because he has only one career half-century in the shortest format, and that was against Ireland. He wasn’t taken by any of South Africa’s domestic T20 teams in an auction for the 2023 season in what was seen as humiliating for the national captain. He made 0, 0, and 3 in his return to action in the three-match warmup series in India, sparking suggestions that the Proteas might have a better chance without him.
“Temba Bavuma is our leader and I back him 100%,” Boucher said in response. “There is a lot of talk on social media and I don’t really care to be honest. He is our leader and we back him in this team.”
Miller the thriller
Miller can be one of T20 cricket’s most effective batters with his mid- to late-innings hitting, and he provided another rousing performance in the series in India, when he blasted 106 off 47 balls. South Africa still lost that game after Miller was left too much to do.
Van der Dussen’s absence because of a broken finger takes away South Africa’s most consistent batter of the last 12 months and a person Miller combined well with. Rilee Rossouw is back after a long absence from the national team and made a century in India, but also two ducks. Without Van der Dussen, rising star Tristan Stubbs may get more chances. There’s pressure on Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram to justify their reputations as among the world’s best batters.
Pretorius, who broke his thumb in India, is another problematic absence as he was set to be the first-choice allrounder in Australia.
A place for pace
Fast bowling has always been a South African strength but as T20 cricket has trended toward spinners being more effective, the Proteas have had to adjust. South Africa has solid spin options in Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi, who was previously ranked the No. 1 bowler in T20s.
But South Africa hasn’t yet found how best to harness its formidable quick-bowling combination of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi in a T20 setting and in Australia, where it’s crucial to get lengths right on fast, bouncy wickets.
Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs.
Note: One more player to be added. A replacement for Dwaine Pretorius has not yet been named.