The Oxigen Proteas will take vital confidence and learning from their recent success in India as they prepare for the ICC World T20 competition. The Proteas have one final warm-up match against a local side at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon, before taking on England in their tournament opener at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.
The Proteas won the T20I and One-Day International (ODI) leg of their tour of India in October last year, and head into the tournament prepared for the challenges that spin-friendly conditions pose. Leg-spinner, Imran Tahir, who was the leading spinner during the ODI series against India, hopes the squad can replicate that success in the World event.
“It was a big help for us,” he said of the tour to India. “ We have played here recently so we know the conditions a little bit better as opposed to just arriving here for the World Cup, we are fortunate in that. We also won the series against India so that is the confidence that we are going to take into this tournament. We have also been playing good T20 cricket so hopefully we will be able to produce the same results at a World event.”
Although the Proteas have always placed emphasis on pace as their strength, Tahir says there will be no extra burden on him to perform in the spin-friendly conditions of the sub-continent.
“There is no extra pressure on me as a leg-spinner,” Tahir said. “The leg-spinner can change the game and the off-spinner is more likely to contain but for me it’s important to have a bigger heart. You often get the pressure as a leg-spinner, the bats are bigger, the boundaries are shorter so if you know your plans and bowl with a clear mind you will do well.
“You need to back yourself and have clear plans, that’s important,” he said. “If you get hit for boundaries, your first instinct is to hide, you are not planning on the best way to go forward. An attacking mind will be the way forward in that situation. It’s important to have a big heart because its helps you to come back and to stick to your plans.”
The 36-year-old has made it a habit of putting in notable performances at the ICC events, and more recently finished as the joint highest wicket-taking spinner alongside New Zealand’s Daniel Vetorri at the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015. He believes his success comes down to his hunger to make winning contributions for the Proteas and hopes he will continue with the same streak at this year’s event.
“It’s a big honour to play for your country at World events,” he said. “ It gives you an extra boost but every game that I play for South Africa is special. I have the same feeling every time I play for South Africa but I guess at ICC events there is a lot at stake and I get renewed energy and hunger. But as with everything else, I take every match that I play for South Africa seriously and always strive to give my absolute best.”
South Africa Itinerary – Group Matches
Tuesday, March 15 – Local team v South Africa, CCI Mumbai – 15h00 (Warm-up match)
Friday, March 18 – South Africa v England, Wankhede Stadium Mumbai – 19h30
Sunday, March 20 – South Africa v Afghanistan, Wankhede Stadium Mumbai – 15h00
Friday, March 25 – South Africa v West Indies, VCA Stadium Nagpur – 19h30
Monday, March 28 – South Africa v Sri Lanka, Feroz Shah Kotla Ground Delhi – 19h30
With thanks to CSA